Date: 15 January 2013
It’s extremely rare for me to attend a Tuesday evening home match, partly because it can only be done by car and is impossible by train. But after this evening’s experience I may rethink that. My fears, exacerbated by the expected sell-out crowd and the gloomy weather forecasts, had been: how long the traffic jams approaching the ground might be; how easily I’d find a parking space; where I’d be able to eat; how cold I would get, sitting in the East Stand; how frozen my windscreen would be when I got back to the car (especially if there was extra time and penalties); how long it would take to drive away; and indeed whether the motorways would be icy, snowy, or even closed off completely in the middle of the night. I needn’t have worried. I was parked up, 29 minutes after leaving my dad’s home in Ferndown; I was tucking into a chicken and mushroom pie under the East Stand twenty minutes after that (a little difficult to eat while standing, but unquestionably of a very high quality); there was no extra time; everyone’s windscreen was miraculously clear at 10 PM despite sub-zero temperatures, as were the motorways; and I was safely home in Walton-on-Thames by half past eleven.
It was a good match too. Though up against Premier League opposition (albeit apparently Wigan’s second XI) we didn’t disgrace ourselves. The outcome was ultimately decided by one error in the first half and two Bournemouth shots that hit the woodwork.
The only real surprise in the Bournemouth line-up was the choice of Thomas as lone starter, meaning – of course – that if he does now leave during the transfer window he’ll be cup-tied. Pugh gave way for Grabban in the midfield, meaning that both wide players (Grabban, right; and McQuoid, left) were strikers who could theoretically get forward to assist Thomas if the Cherries advanced via the opposite flank. The downside was of course that the established partnership of Daniels and Pugh was broken, and that Francis – who’s already been paired with McQuoid and Fogden in recent weeks – now had to get used to a third partner on the right. Hughes was in front of the back four, in a 4-1-4-1 system; and Jalal was in goal as in every previous FA Cup game this season. The match started a bit scrappily, partly no doubt on account of the frozen pitch that made passing difficult. We showed Wigan, if anything, too much respect in the early stages; and after 18 minutes we fell behind when a poor pass by Arter gifted a scoring opportunity to Wigan’s Boselli, who didn’t hesitate to lash the ball into the net from distance. Jalal couldn’t be blamed for this, though Arter certainly could. And this began a spell which Wigan dominated. But we eventually came back into the game, and surprisingly this was largely due to a knee injury to Grabban. He tried to run it off for five minutes, but when he was unable to do so he was replaced – not as one might expect by Fogden, but by Pugh. This was the 34th minute. Crucially the substitution meant that Francis was now reunited with McQuoid, who switched flanks; and, more significantly, Daniels with Pugh; so Bournemouth’s game immediately got better. We totally dominated the last ten minutes of the half, and O’Kane was unlucky to see a shot hit the crossbar (at the North Stand end, Wigan having won the toss and forced us to attack the North Stand in the first half) just before the break. Half time: 0-1.
The game continued in a similar vein in the second half, Jalal producing one world-class save, and both Arter and Thomas getting shots in, though the latter’s were generally too soft and hence easy to save. Unfortunately though, as in recent games, excellent work on the wings and in midfield, followed by crosses into the box, nearly always resulted the ball being caught by the Wigan keeper or sent back down the field by the Wigan defenders, unopposed. If only we had one good target man, who could sit in the box and meet the excellent crosses from Pugh (and long throw-ins from Cook, of which there were several in this game) and put the ball away. Bournemouth fans are increasingly wondering if we could afford to buy one tall in-the-box target man, capable of 20 goals a season – even if this meant selling all the eight or nine strikers currently on our books! Seriously, surely that’s what we should be looking for in the transfer window, rather than yet another goalie?
Eddie had been forced to make an unplanned substitution already as a result of Grabban’s injury, and with the possibility of the game going to 120 minutes he needed to be a little cautious about making further changes. But on 66 minutes he made the ‘usual’ substitution of Fogden for McQuoid, that made little difference; and on the 80th he switched from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2 by replacing Hughes with Tubbs. I can’t fault anything about the team selection, nor the choice and timing of the substitutions, and indeed his plan almost came off. Although there wasn’t really time to see whether Thomas and Tubbs is a viable strike partnership or not, Tubbs was certainly lively and got a few shots in during the final ten minutes plus added time, that were totally dominated by Bournemouth. And four minutes from the end, Pugh did what O’Kane had done late in the first half: hit the crossbar with a shot that, if on target, Wigan’s keeper would have been helpless to defend. Full time: 0-1, bringing to an end our current sequence of games undefeated, though there’s no shame in that so long as we can return to winning ways against Walsall on Saturday.
The crowd was announced as 8890, for the second match in a row the season’s best attendance figure to date at the Goldsands Stadium. The away fans were squeezed into a very small section of the East Stand, with no access to the facilities under the stand, but a few mobile food outlets and toilets parked at the south end for their convenience. Hopefully despite the result most home fans felt they’d been royally entertained tonight, and will come back to support the Cherries in their promotion push during the remainder of the season. All the players played well, though once again three stood out. Saturday it had been Elphick, Arter and O’Kane; this time it was Jalal, Cook and O’Kane. But I’m giving my Man of the Match to the guy who features in both lists, and who now pops up as a striker, midfielder, sweeper or wherever he’s most needed, and just keeps getting better and better!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):