Date: 29 January 2011
Well this was a long day out for me - about 15 hours away from home - and it would have been a particularly long homeward journey if we’d got nothing out of it. But we did get something out of it (three points!) and all in all it was a very pleasant day. I got lots of reading done on the way (there was only one other ‘Exile’ on my train, and he was in first class!); I thought the pub coped very well with the large matchday crowd by serving drinks in plastic ‘glasses’ and hot snacks in cardboard boxes; and it was good to visit Argyle again, especially given the fact that the club’s future is so much in doubt.
Some local fans we spoke to, are quite gloomy about the prognosis for their club. It seems every match could be the last. We’ve been there. Their players haven’t been paid. We’ve been there too! The crowd of 8,836 (which we’d be thrilled with at Dean Court, even allowing for the fact that the away supporters numbered only eight short of 1000) was somewhat subdued because of all this. There was a doleful version of “To be a Pilgrim” playing over the PA system as we arrived at Home Park - to the traditional tune of Monk’s Gate and loosely based on the traditional words by John Bunyan - that exacerbated the all-round feeling of sadness. It’s hard to say how much the prevailing mood affected the home players, but their many shots on goal (three times as many as ours) nearly all went crazily wide - and this would prove to be the story of the game.
Plymouth’s striker Fallon missed a sitter - with a gaping goalmouth in front of him - in the nineteenth minute. We saw this clearly as it was right in front of the away end. But seconds later, on the break, Ings was hitting the crossbar at the other end and the loose ball was being gratefully collected and driven home by Pugh for Bournemouth’s first goal, very much against the run of play. The story of the rest of the first half would be entirely about poor finishing by Plymouth’s strikers and spectacular saves by Jalal. I counted at least three of the latter, and by half time had already pretty much decided he’d be my Man of the Match for the second game running. On the stroke of half time Ings got a bit of criticism from the visiting fans for selfishly attempting a shot when Symes might have scored - but in fairness Symes wasn’t having a good game and Ings probably realised this. So, 1-0 to us at half time, but scarcely deserved.
We didn’t play any better in the second half. At times it seemed that Plymouth’s style of play (not good, pretty, football at all: a lot of ball-hoofing) was dragging our standards down too. Bradbury seemed unsure what to do about it. But eventually, perhaps predictably, he sent on Fletcher for the ineffective Symes. The dramatic change everyone might have hoped for, unfortunately occurred at the wrong end! Fletcher initially took up a centre half position, maybe slightly confusing our defence for a moment, and in less than a minute we’d conceded a goal. In many ways it was like Pugh’s in the first half: not only was it at the same end of the pitch (far away from us and not easy to see in detail) but there was a shot by Paterson that hit the post before Fallon shot off the rebound. 1-1, and so it remained until six minutes from the end of normal time, when Ings cleverly turned on the ball in a good position and passed to Fletcher who once again scored a winning goal for us. Cue genuine joy amongst Bournemouth players and fans.
So, a ‘lucky’ three points, and we remain second in the table with two home matches coming up next. Much for Bradbury to ponder though. If a future opposition side has even one half-decent striker, and we play like this, we’ll be slaughtered. Also, we can’t afford to lose Jalal under any circumstances: he kept us in the game again and again. There were positives to take away: the right channel (Smith-Feeney) worked well and Feeney got some good crosses in. But the rest of the midfield (amongst whom I include Ings because for the first half at least he played very, very deep) didn’t get involved anything like enough. And Cummings, evidently a last-minute replacement for Wiggins, had a poor game too.
Even before the game there was a feeling of hoping this great West Country club doesn’t go out of existence but, by the end, we had another reason for thinking this: we’ve scored the double over them, and if they don’t survive the season we’ll be docked six points!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Smith (8), Cooper (7), Pearce (7), Cummings (5);
Feeney (7), Robinson (6), Bartley (6), Pugh (6);
Ings (6), Symes (5).