Date: 6 April 2013
A ‘bonus’ game I only got to see because of a last minute change of plans, but what a bonus this turned out to be! If it hadn’t been for a moment of selfishness on Pitman’s part at the death, this would have been 4-1; but in the event every Bournemouth fan will forgive that because we’ve played well for the most part, we’ve improved our goal difference a little, and with so many other results going our way even I now believe we could achieve automatic promotion.
This was a nice sunny day, and fortunately as I was in row Q rather than my usual row (N) so I never had the sun actually in my eyes! The same team as Monday began the match but Fletch had lost his place on the bench to accommodate Grabban’s return. Grabban, who’d allegedly been suffering from flu or something then, only made the bench, either because he wasn’t fully (match) fit or because Howe wanted to give Tubbs one more chance, but he was back.
But once again Tubbs failed to seize his chance to impress, resulting in my prediction that Grabban would inevitably take his place on the hour mark if not before. (I was ten minutes out, but what do I know?) Tubbs wasn’t our weakest link at the start though. As early on as the very first minute our players ponderously stood back whilst Notts County’s five man midfield passed the ball to and fro; and we just refused to tackle anyone. Cherries’ fans screamed for their team to attack but still they stood back, and in little over a minute Jeff Hughes had run the channel Daniels was supposed to be defending and got in a shot that Allsop – despite getting a finger to – couldn’t quite catch. 0-1 on the scoreboard; less than two minutes on the clock.
For a while, we continued along similar lines, but Pitman got a shot in on 8 minutes (about the time he usually scores – but today his shot went wide). The breakthrough though came on 17 minutes when some good interplay between Pugh and Daniels on the left (again!) saw Daniels get into a very advanced position near the open end of the stadium, put in a beautiful cross that seemed to go behind all our central players (oh no...), and then miraculously find Ritchie who slammed the ball home from the right. This wasn’t just an equaliser, it was a sign that Bournemouth were well and truly in the game now. For the rest of the half we dominated. Tubbs failed to shoot once, despite getting into a good position; did shoot a little later, but saw his shot saved; and then assisted Pitman with a ball that Pitman fired home from close range. 2-1, Bournemouth looking comfortable, Pitman failing to be the first scorer of the match this time but still scoring in six games in a row! (He’s starting to threaten Jermain Defoe’s record of ten in a row! Maybe he’ll need his own song soon!) So we all settled back for a goal-fest – but then something occurred that threatened to change the whole shape of the game: the referee awarded a second yellow card and hence a red to Boucaud, one of County’s midfielders. Both challenges had been somewhat innocuous, so much so that the ref hesitated before giving the second card; but, partly in response to protestations from Arter, he still did so. As one of five midfielders in the side, theoretically Boucaud could be spared, but – despite being a goal down – the chances were that County would now put a lot of men behind the ball and frustrate our play, which was exactly what they did – for the closing moments of the first half and a large chunk of the second.
The second period saw (half-hearted) penalty claims at both ends, but nothing significantly changed until Grabban came on for Tubbs – not, as I’d predicted, on sixty minutes but on seventy. Although both Grabban and Tubbs frustrate the fans by scoring few goals, Grabban has more pace; and, having watched both players recently, I now believe he has the edge. And sure enough it was his assist that set up Ritchie’s second goal five minutes before the end. This was the first chance Bournemouth fans had really had to relax and enjoy the match, because with a one goal margin you’re always just seconds away from a potential equaliser, however undeserved it might be.
The last memorable moment in the game was, as already mentioned, well into injury time. Pitman’s fantastic run down the right wing (who’d have thought he’d now played solidly for 90 minutes plus?) put him into a perfect position to pass to one of two Bournemouth players in the centre. In particular Fogden, who’d just come on as a late substitute for Ritchie, was totally unmarked. But Pitman tried for the shot himself, from an acute angle. Hopefully he was suitably chastised for that after the game, before all the players – himself included – settled down to toast another excellent hard-won victory and a step closer to the Championship!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), Elphick (7), Cook (8), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (8), Arter (7), O'Kane (7), Pugh (7);
Pitman (7), Tubbs (6).