Date: 23 January 2010
No doubt Howe and the players will be taking ‘positives’ out of this game - as they always do - but for the fans it’s not so easy. It’s our third defeat in a row. There was nothing entertaining about the first half - even for neutrals - and with the injury to Igoe and suspension for Cummings we don’t seem to have a squad to face the rush of games lined up for February. Positives? Well 6:14 PM is probably the earliest I’ve got home from any Bournemouth match anywhere, and I was certainly glad of the longer evening, but I for one shan’t be singing “Can we play you every week?”
The trip to and from the ground was relatively straightforward, though it is a long trek up a hill and along a narrow track through a park to get to the away end. Although, evidently, there’d been some crowd trouble in the streets, the journey wasn’t as bad as our previous visit - which had been Aldershot’s first match back in the league; or, at least, the police didn’t react as strongly as last time when they’d closed roads and forced us into taking a circuitous route back to the station. The atmosphere was still pretty feisty though. Bournemouth’s ticket allocation had been sold out, our supporters made up 25% of the total crowd, and there was non-stop banter between the Aldershot and Bournemouth fans who were located side by side at the railway end of the ground. Chants of “Aldershot” were met with the response “Aldersh*t”; accusations of “Top of the league and you f*cked it up” resulted in the riposte “Your dad’s a soldier and your mum’s a slag.”
We were able to name six subs today (only Partington was missing from last time out), and the only change to the starting line-up was Fletcher for Goulding. This was certainly an improvement, and it was remarkable that despite his age Fletch managed 90 minutes. He won most things in the air, but his flick-ons were somewhat random and despite the number of times they’ve worked together he and Pitman didn’t often seem to be on the same wavelength. But Fletch did win us our penalty (of which, more later) so if the overall result had turned out differently one might be giving him more credit now.
There was a one minute silence before the game, which was possibly the worst observed one I’ve ever known. This may have been the result of no-one hearing what the silence was for (Haiti?), which itself raises a question about how the ground’s PA system would cope in an emergency. The first half was dull, a dire performance from both teams and not a good advertisement for football. If the Sky match at Meadow Lane turns out like this, viewers will soon be reaching for their remote controls. The one goal of the half came from a debatable free kick. 21 minutes into the game, Garry was adjudged to have fouled an Aldershot player on the edge of the penalty area (fortunately just outside not just inside) in front of the away fans. Garry was booked, and the resultant free kick was blasted into the top corner of the net. 1-0 to Aldershot. In fact, we were fortunate not to be further behind before the interval, because Jalal appears to have developed an irritating habit of throwing the ball straight to the feet of opponents - which proved dangerous more than once.
Igoe got injured during the first half and attempted to play on for a while. He also swapped wings with Feeney because Aldershot had done their homework and were preventing Feeney getting forward with his usual pace. (Despite this, Feeney did enough IMHO to earn man-of-the-match. But then, there wasn’t much competition for the honour today!) When it became obvious that Igoe couldn’t carry on, we wondered whether McQuoid would be employed wide or centrally. But it wasn’t McQuoid who came on; it was Bartley, a player we’d almost forgotten. He played centrally (and showed a lot more desire than most Bournemouth players today) while Hollands switched to the left wing. But it wasn’t really Hollands’ day, whichever position he played in. Nothing he attempted worked out right, and it was amazing that he wasn’t substituted until the ninetieth minute. Then, Goulding came on up front; Pitman switched to the left wing for the closing moments of the game.
So there were no changes of personnel at half time - but we certainly started the second period a lot more brightly. Cherries pushed forwards again and again, towards the end where our own fans were standing, until on the hour mark Fletch was adjudged to have been held back in the penalty area and Pitman stepped up to take the resultant penalty. Mick Cunningham rushed over to photograph the shot; the ball in the back of the net; the players’ goal celebrations; and the fans’ celebrations too. His camera clicked repeatedly for a minute or two, and with the score standing at 1-1 we settled down to proceed with a game that all of a sudden looked winnable. We continued to pile on the pressure - for a while - with Feeney and Bartley very involved. Aldershot became nervous, and began to employ delaying tactics. For example when their number 10, Morgan, had to leave the pitch injured, he decided to walk as slowly as possible and take the longest route off. Despite this, he was fit enough to run straight back on again! But we didn’t allow any of this to faze us. Jalal somewhat made up for his earlier errors with a couple of great saves; and, notably, one magnificent one four minutes from time, But, seconds after that, the ball reached the feet of an Aldershot player and a cheeky back-heel meant they scored anyway. 2-1. The rest of the game, including four or five minutes of added time, were marred by ugly scenes on the pitch. One Aldershot player lunged at a Bournemouth player with both feet and, while the referee was sorting that out, there was a scuffle taking place at the other end. Eventually it took the referee, his two assistants, and a group of stewards to try and sort out the mess. But when it looked as though the game was ready to re-start (with a throw-in from Cummings) one of Aldershot’s (unused) subs threw the ball at Warren’s face - and he kicked it back. Both the unused player and Cummings were shown red cards, and ultimately the latter may prove to be today’s main legacy: we struggled badly when Warren was missing for one match because we have no Plan B at left-back, but now he’ll be missing for three! Which means our run of three defeats could extend to six? Somehow we’ve ended today still in second place in League 2, but now Aldershot are only six points behind us and with two games in hand.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):