Date: 13 September 2011
Prior to this match there was much talk about the fact that the Cherries hadn’t beaten Orient at Brisbane Road - in the League - since 1948! This of course ignored our 3-1 cup win there in 2004 which many - myself included - had indeed seen. But who would have thought we’d see a repeat of that scoreline tonight, with Cherries’ 2004 man of the match, Warren Cummings, sitting this one out as our only unused outfield sub?
We lined up in white (despite today’s matchday programme suggesting we’d wear blue and black), and Bradbury had reverted to tracksuit attire (maybe because Garry was absent?). Would this be any kind of omen? We adopted the system I least like to see: a lone striker up front in a 4-1-4-1 formation. But in fairness this lone striker - Wes Thomas - is better than most as he’s fast but can also hold the ball up well. The previously ever-present Cooper had surprisingly been relegated to the bench, but before we’d had chance to see how the proposed line-up would pan out Mark Molesley (surely destined to follow Steve Lovell into early retirement?) had gone off injured. So Cooper missed less than three minutes of this match in the end, but played tonight as a defensive central midfielder until Orient were down to ten men in the second half, and then moved alongside Arter and played in a more attacking role. He looked better in these positions than he had previously in the back four; while Baudry - who’d replaced him alongside Barrett - really looked the business there, with his extra height and youth.
This was an evenly balanced match - but played at a cracking pace - until Thomas was fouled in the penalty area in the twentieth minute. Arter, brimming with confidence and cool as a cucumber, had no trouble burying the resultant penalty to move slightly further ahead of the pack as our leading goal-scorer of the season to date. Thomas looks like getting into positions like this many more times, so hopefully we now can expect to turn from the League One side that’s currently conceded the most penalties (according to the Stat Pack in the programme), into the side that’s been awarded the most. Unfortunately within three minutes an Orient player had sent a powerful shot from distance in the direction of our own undefended goal, and (evidently with a deflection by Baudry on the way) had brought the scores level again. And so it remained till half-time when I considered getting myself some hot food and/or drink (what had begun as a warm sunny day had now turned decidedly chilly) but, having taken one look at the queues, thought better of it.
Bournemouth started the second half brightly, but the stalemate as far as the score was concerned continued until an Orient player lunged at Arter in the middle of the park and was rewarded with a red card for his efforts. (From that moment on, the home crowd unfairly booed Arter every time he touched the ball.) Away fans will have expected Orient to shut up shop and the score to remain at 1-1, because our record against ten-man sides isn’t great. But Bradbury decided to take advantage, bring off Gregory and replace him with Doble. Neither Gregory nor Doble has impressed me any time I’ve seen them, to be honest, but the substitution was still a wise one, because it enabled Cooper to take up a more advanced position, and also gave Orient two strikers to defend against. Cooper, Byrne and Arter all had scoring chances. It was a Cooper shot a quarter of an hour before the end that agonisingly rebounded off the woodwork - but Thomas was on hand to score his first goal for the Cherries. He’d been involved in both our goals thus far, and would in fact be involved in the third too. Nine minutes from time, he was tackled as he ran with the ball, but Pugh to his left picked up the loose ball and slammed it into the empty net for 3-1. Thomas was deservedly given a standing ovation as he left the pitch to be replaced by Fletcher, who played out the last few minutes on Doble’s left hand side, marking his 698th game overall for us.
The jury is still out as to whether this game marked the turning point in our season, or whether it was just that a few debatable refereeing decisions went our way (as Orient fans would subsequently claim). This will be clearer after Saturday’s match. Certainly the return of Baudry and Malone to the starting line-up has done our cause no harm whatever; and arguably our three greatest stars at the moment - Arter, Thomas and Pugh - deservedly scored one goal apiece. So early is it in the season, and so much difference do three points make at the ‘wrong’ end of the table, that tonight’s scoreline lifted us out of the relegation zone and we’re now only seven points below a play-off place!
From the third minute the team line-up (with my scores out of ten) was :
Purches (7), Baudry (7), Barrett (7), Malone (8);
Byrne (6), Gregory (6), Arter (9), Pugh (8);
Purches, Baudry, Barrett, Malone;
Byrne, Arter, Cooper, Pugh;