Date: 3 November 2012
So, my first chance to watch the Cherries since the return of The Messiah! What could I expect – a noisier crowd? Surprisingly, not really; but then there were very few visitors to wind them up. A livelier team? Yes, but not until after halftime. A changed team? Yes, more so than I’d expected; only two of today’s starting eleven (Elphick and Daniels) had started the previous match I’d seen, just a month ago at Crawley.
Jalal, back in goal, looked confident enough but in fairness had little to do. Addison, though confirmed as club captain only this week, was being rested – but his replacement, Cook, is very popular with the crowd anyway. It meant that the centre back pairing of Cook and (captain for the day) Elphick are both ex-Brighton; by all accounts they had little experience of playing together whilst they were there, but they certainly looked solid enough today. MacDonald and Arter are clearly established now as Howe’s preferred central midfield pairing, and appear to be gelling well (compare, e.g., Bartley and Robinson in previous seasons). McQuoid and Pugh are looking lively on the wings and most goal threats seem to come from there. Up front, with Barnard cup-tied, two very different players: Tubbs, who positions himself well and waits for the ball to come to him; and Grabban, who covers more of the pitch than anyone else and may literally pop up anywhere – even deep in defence – to retrieve the ball. But neither of the front two are proven goal scorers at this level, so their main value is in keeping the opposition’s defence occupied whilst McQuoid or Pugh are grabbing every scoring opportunity.
The crowd, despite a ticket price of only £10 for this game and huge queues at the ticket office at 2:30, was smaller than of late – at 5,827 (including 186 visitors). It’s impossible to say whether this reflected the alternative attractions of bonfire weekend, the start of the Christmas shopping season, the lowliness of the opposition, or some other factor I haven’t thought of – but it meant the support was muted and Bournemouth took a while to get going. But get going they did, and on the half hour mark a Francis shot came off the Dagenham keeper (Lewington) and McQuoid scored on the rebound. Apart from this, the most notable event in the first half occurred very early on: Lewington hurled himself at Tubbs (who’d been set up by Daniels), and was injured in the process. This resulted in a lengthy delay at the time, and an interesting substitution at the start of the second half!
Howe must have had something to say at half time, because the team came back onto the pitch looking far more determined, stepping up a gear or two. Dagenham immediately looked unable to cope, which was of particular concern to their substitute goalie Jordan Seabright – a Bournemouth supporter, released by the Cherries in the summer and making his league debut at Dean Court! Oh, and to make things tougher still for the Daggers, it now started to rain cats and dogs. The sky had certainly looked grey and threatening for some time, but no weather forecast had predicted any rain for this afternoon in Bournemouth. Some combination of these factors meant that Bournemouth now began to tear Dagenham apart. Pugh scored with a deflected shot to make it 2-0, in the 59th minute, when a McQuoid shot had been saved but not retained by Seabright. So McQuoid now had one goal plus one assist – but he still managed to score again in his own right in the 79th minute, picking up a loose ball and sending it goalward. 3-0. And late substitute Fogden (coming on for the hard-working Grabban) even managed to get on the score sheet with an 89th minute shot from a very tight angle in front of the North Stand. 4-0, and the score could have been higher if McQuoid hadn’t slipped while taking a shot five minutes from time, resulting in the ball sailing over the crossbar.
4-0 was a fair reflection of the game, and the clean sheet was particularly welcome with James and Addison being ‘rested’, but the most important thing to keep remembering is that we would never have won this match 4-0 with Groves in charge.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (8), Elphick (7), Cook (8), Daniels (7);
McQuoid (8), MacDonald (7), Arter (7), Pugh (9);
Grabban (8), Tubbs (6).