Date: 13 August 2011
The last time I saw us play Sheffield Wednesday was in September ‘04. We beat them at their place and they parted company with their manager as a result. The Wednesday fans bought us drinks because they were glad to be rid of him! Was any of this an omen? Well, certainly Wednesday were the favourites ahead of today’s match, and even the most optimistic Cherries’ fans were tipping us for defeat. Last week’s results would imply this, as would the fact that Wednesday were among this season’s pre-season favourites to go up.
For the second week running it was a chilly afternoon for early August. The crowd looked good for holiday month, and turned out to be over 6900 - but would only have been 5300 without the visitors. The pitch was in good condition, last season’s temporary stand had been dismantled (and replaced by turf!!??), a new green fence with gates now surrounded the overall site for extra security, and the new houses behind the East Stand were rising apace with a nice red brick wall separating them from the stadium. But none of this would of course count for anything once the match got underway.
Wednesday were a strong team and made a lot of the early running, but our defence held firm and we got into the game more and more. For the first goal, though, we’d have to wait till seven minutes before half time. We won a corner on our left (between the East Stand and the open end) and Pugh’s kick sailed across to the far post where a few evidently rehearsed dummy runs put Wednesday off the scent. They left Barrett unmarked and he rose to head home. Interestingly I’d only commented minutes earlier that Barrett was getting into good scoring positions every time we were attacking Wednesday’s goal, and seemed to be involved in all set pieces, so there was no more deserving scorer than he. Half time: 1-0.
Wednesday were more charged up than ever for the second half, and soon started making substitutions to try and improve their chances. But it was to be - eventually - our substitute who would score the second. Everyone predicted Fletcher for Doble on about sixty minutes but - maybe with one eye on Tuesday’s match - it was Arter (who was unfortunate to be on the bench at all after his great game last week) for the tiring Molesley. But the goal wouldn’t come until the same time as the first: seven minutes before the end of the half. Byrne took a throw-in at the north end of the East Stand. He found Taylor, who found Feeney, who crossed into the penalty area. Everything happened fast but Arter, running in, beat the Wednesday defenders to the ball and rammed it home in what will probably still be a contender for Goal of the Season come next May!
There was still a chance of losing this lead. Wednesday were more determined than ever and there were some heart stopping moments, but at least we had a better cushion now than we’d had for most of the half. When four minutes’ time was added on, there were still some fears, as Wednesday were certainly on top now; but, surprisingly, the time passed quickly and we would soon be celebrating a tremendous victory. We were also now 11th in the league table, which is a very decent position.
For home fans who hadn’t travelled the previous week, our team will have looked very unfamiliar. Molesley and Taylor rarely featured last season; so only Cooper, Pugh and Feeney are well-known. Of the new signings Byrne, Barrett and Malone will have stood out. Unlike last week, both full backs were willing to get forward and there was good overlapping play on both flanks, with Malone also being expert at the ‘diagonal’ pass to Feeney on the opposite wing. Gregory is still finding his feet and most fans would probably prefer to see Molesley and Arter in central midfield at the moment. Doble is also finding his feet - literally, because every time he was needed he seemed to fall over! Flahavan wasn’t really tested today. The two liveliest and busiest players on our side must have been Feeney and Taylor; not everything went right for them, but they must be given full marks for effort.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Byrne (8), Cooper (7), Barrett (9), Malone (8);
Feeney (8), Gregory (6), Molesley (7), Pugh (8);
Taylor (7), Doble (6).