Date: 14 January 2012
So it’s onwards and upwards for the Cherries! OK so we’re still ninth in the table after this match, as we were before, but the points gap between ourselves and the last play-off place has been reduced.
I’ve watched us play at County three times in recent years but, strangely, not seen us play them at home in that time period. Having this season been present for both matches as we did the double over Wycombe, I was afraid I’d witness County do the double over us. But no worries, despite going behind as early as the fifth minute we fought back - and the turning point of the game was surely Zubar coming on for Barrett?
We lined up 4-4-2 in front of a 6500 crowd - a little down on games during the festive season, but still encouraging given that there were few visiting supporters present. It was great to see Daniels back in the starting line-up, and Cook starting for the first time as a ‘permanent’ Bournemouth player. Barrett got his place back presumably on the strength of being team captain; but the fitter Arter was preferred over the returning MacDonald. As usual, this resulted in a slight weakness in central midfield - but it was good to see Purches (on his 32nd birthday) there to ‘protect’ the back four. And Flahavan was in good form, making a couple of great saves to keep us in the match. But our strength going forward was in our wing-play. Although Pugh tried fancy tricks on several occasions when a simpler approach would have been preferable (were there scouts present that he was trying to impress?), at least he teamed up well with Daniels, giving us a lively left flank. And indeed it was Pugh who got in our first (early) shot from a corner, which the County keeper fumbled - almost giving Fogden a scoring opportunity on the rebound. A sign of things to come? Well, no, because as already mentioned Notts - on the break - in only the fifth minute won a free kick, from which Bencherif (what sort of name is that?) sent a brilliant shot flying into the top corner of the net, giving Flahavan absolutely no chance. But just three minutes later Barrett pulled up with a hamstring (again!) and was replaced by Zubar. The crowd were disappointed at this ‘waste’ of a substitution, but nonetheless delighted to see Zubar in action again. Indeed they’d started chanting his name the second Barrett went down! And sometimes the fans do know best, because certainly today this substitution was the best thing that could have happened. Zubar took on Lee Hughes and as the match wore on won the one-on-one battle with him, as well as popping up defensively all over the place and challenging anyone who’d take him on. There’s rarely been a more deserving ‘man of the match’ than this one, and it’s no exaggeration to say we probably wouldn’t have won if Barrett had played the full ninety minutes. Bradbury needs to make a courageous decision when Barrett returns to fitness again (which could be about four weeks away); if Cook and Zubar are both fit Barrett shouldn’t play. In fact it’s arguable that when Baudry is fit, our team captain will be the fourth best centre half in the squad!
Anyway, things improved after this substitution. Zubar gave us confidence in defence and going forward. In the 21st minute, Pugh and Daniels worked the left flank well (this was the flank alongside the Main Stand, because we’d lost the toss for the second home game in a row) and crossed to Symes, but the attack didn’t quite come off. However, seconds later the exact same advance involving the same three players was attempted, Symes this time got in a shot and it was deflected to Thomas. Thomas was about six inches from the back stick! I’m not kidding, I could have scored from there! Thomas, of course, tapped the ball in; and we laughed but also cheered. We were back in the game already, and - it must be admitted - luck was on our side too, especially when a Lee Hughes shot hit the crossbar at the ‘open’ end of the ground when he’d had an empty net to shoot at! As the half wore on Francis, Fogden and Purches all got shots in and County’s defenders must have wondered how they could defend against all these sharp-shooters. 1-1 at half time.
For the second half, we just went on getting better. A cross from Daniels to Symes should have given us a second goal, but Symes’ shot was far too gentle and a grateful goalie stopped it easily. Zubar continued to control the defence and it seemed that it was only a matter of time before we’d score again. A masterful second substitution ensured we did. Arter was replaced by MacDonald in a ‘tactical’ substitution almost exactly on the hour mark - presumably something planned from the start because Arter wasn’t having a bad game. It was a long run from said MacDonald eight minutes from time, beating numerous Notts defenders, that led to some trickery in the crowded goalmouth and a devilish lay-off to Fogden from which he scored his first home goal. We’d turned the game round and were now 2-1 up!
Fletcher, keeping both Taylor and Stockley off the bench after his heroics at Walsall last week, came on as a late substitute to help wind the clock down. He played, as Symes had, to the right of Thomas. We had to face three additional minutes at the end of the match, and the fans nervously whistled for full time while the players tried to ‘hoof’ the ball down to the safe end of the ground, or play it into the corner. There was relief as the whistle went - but also strong cheers. And it was Zubar’s name that was still being chanted as fans left to phone Radio Solent and demand that he be the automatic choice ahead of Barrett in future.
The team lined up as follows after the eighth minute (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), Zubar (9), Cook (8), Daniels (8);
Fogden (8), Purches (7), Arter (6), Pugh (7);
Symes (6), Thomas (7).