Date: 5 October 2013
The Cherries repeated their Millennium Stadium scoreline of ten years ago as they came from behind to, eventually, thrash Millwall 5-2.
I began my previous matchday report for the Exiles (against Wigan) by commenting that the team had “got their Championship campaign back on track” with that result. How much more was this true today? By getting just one point in the previous three games we’d slipped into the bottom half of the table. But so tight is the table at this point in the season, that today’s result takes us back up to 8th – just four points behind a play-off position.
When the team was announced there was no surprise that Henderson was making his debut in goal (with Allsop suspended and Flahavan injured). Fellow West Ham loanee Collison was named in midfield for his home debut. And once again Fraser was preferred over Pitman on the right flank. But more surprisingly Arter was deemed fit enough to return to the starting line-up, relegating O’Kane to the bench. Anyway, we started brightly, with a Grabban cross (from the left) via Pugh to Fraser in the box within the first minute; but Fraser was too short to do anything with it. When Pugh again found Fraser a few minutes later, the same outcome ensued. We were having most of the play, but to no avail. Then against the run of play – with less than six minutes on the clock – a poor clearance from Francis at the other end led indirectly to Waghorn who was being given too much space on Millwall’s left; he attempted a shot from a tight angle and easily beat Henderson who was off his line. 0-1. At this, a Millwall supporter in the home fans’ section of the East Stand revealed his allegiances a bit too clearly, and was promptly evicted! Which was his loss – because he missed Millwall’s second goal just three minutes later. A misplaced pass by Arter gave the scorer of the first goal, Waghorn, the opportunity to pass to Trotter, who charged towards goal. Henderson came out to meet him in a one-on-one situation, but the Millwall player won the battle. Indeed with the score at 0-2 in under ten minutes it looked as though Millwall may have won the war. Who was to blame? The system was our preferred 4-4-1-1; no-one could blame Harte this week as we were being beaten on our right flank not our left. Was it the new goalie’s fault? Not really. In any case, we’d never have guessed it at this point, but Henderson would have little to do for the rest of the game and would be almost a spectator come the second half.
For a while Millwall, unsurprisingly, sat on the 2-0 lead that they had. They got in another shot on 26 minutes which we didn’t even try to defend. They also switched to three at the back, which frustrated our attempts to get forward and score via route one, and made us more and more reliant on our wingers. Francis got very involved, teamed up well with Fraser, managed some great runs and put several good crosses into the box, but there was never a Bournemouth player there to receive them. It was particularly disappointing that Collison, who a couple of West Ham supporters had told me was great at getting forward into the ‘hole’, was hanging back just in front of the back four. Was he unfit, or was he simply following instructions?
But then a cunning switch of tactics, five or ten minutes before half-time. I don’t know whose idea it was, but our wingers swopped flanks. Fraser, now on the left, no longer had to play against ex-Bournemouth defender Scott Malone – who was looking far more impressive than he ever did for us. And this made all the difference to our game, paying dividends almost immediately. First Rantie got in a shot, which hit the side netting. And then Fraser, from a position on the left corner of the area, put in a diagonal shot that totally surprised Forde in the Millwall goal. 1-2, and Game On! It was almost half time, a good time to score, and indeed during the three minutes of added time we dominated so much that it looked like we could increase our lead even before the break. Collison saw his shot tipped over the bar to win us a corner, and although nothing came of that things were boding well for the second half.
Millwall had shot themselves in the foot at 3 o’clock when, having won the toss, they’d opted to switch directions and attack the Ted MacDougall Stand for the first half, because this meant that throughout the second period the sun was in their keeper’s eyes! (I, sitting two rows higher in the East Stand than usual, had no such problem – though fans immediately in front of me did!) Bournemouth meanwhile started the second half as they’d ended the first – with Pugh on the right and Fraser on the left, so they could both cut inside onto their preferred foot as they got the chance. The equaliser came just five minutes into the half when Grabban won us a corner (on Bournemouth’s right), and Harte’s corner kick was nodded in by Cook. Soon after, Harte himself was unlucky to hit the crossbar from a free kick, but more Bournemouth goals looked increasingly likely. And then, in the 54th minute, Rantie (who still doesn’t look scoring but does team up well with Grabban and certainly puts in some great assists) found Arter, who smashed in one of his trademark thunderous volleys from distance. 3-2. Shortly after, Rantie was brought down and Harte had a chance to repeat his ‘free kick’ trick. But this time his shot went straight into the wall. Further Bournemouth goals looked increasingly likely though, so Millwall responded with a double substitution to try and get their game back on track. But from their point of view the timing couldn’t have been more unfortunate because moments later one of their players – Dunne – was adjudged to have handled the ball in the area; he was already on one yellow card so this second caution meant he was off and Millwall were now reduced to ten men. Better still, this meant we were awarded a penalty kick. In the absence of both Pitman and Daniels who would take it? Either Harte or Arter would almost certainly have scored. But up stepped Grabban, who ever so gently rolled the ball into the bottom right hand corner, sending Forde the wrong way. 4-2! Grabban enjoyed celebrating in front of the Millwall fans because he has ‘history’ with them and they’d been giving him a lot of stick (“Grabban, Grabban, what’s the score?”) throughout the first half. But what resulted were the ugliest scenes at Dean Court in a long while: Millwall fans charging forward, fighting, and throwing coins – one of which hit and injured Steve Cook. Police responded by starting to film the visiting supporters, but this was too late to catch the culprit for the Cook incident.
Once Cook had been treated, and the game had restarted, Boscombe could have been tempted to run the clock down. But of course we do have a rather large negative goal difference to put right, and at home against 10 men would seem to be the occasion to try and do something about this. So we continued to press forward. At one stage we had a very long string of successful passes before Fraser was brought down whilst in possession of the ball. Substitutions were made: Surman for Rantie (Surman got in a shot on virtually his first touch, but it was lacking in power and gave the goalie no problem); O’Kane for Pugh (so we now switched to 4-2-3-1 with Surman, O’Kane and Fraser lined up behind Grabban); and lastly Pitman for Arter. (Arter had looked as though he were suffering from cramp for some time, but maybe Eddie decided there was no risk in wearing a player out when the next match is a full two weeks off!) So now it was 4-2-3-1 with O’Kane – Collison making up the “2” and Surman – Pitman – Fraser making up the “3”. Some Bournemouth fans thought about getting out a bit early, not because they were bored but because the Millwall fans were looking more and more scary so it would be good to get away from the ground before they emerged from their stand. But five minutes’ added time was announced, and fortunately I decided to stay put because deep into that period a Harte cross from Bournemouth’s left found Fraser, who was promptly brought down – just inside the area – by Millwall’s Connolly. Another penalty! Pitman showed no hesitation in grabbing the ball and no-one tried to stop him. Though his penalty wasn’t quite as tidy as Grabban’s it had the same effect: once again Forde was sent to his right while the ball went to his left, and the very satisfactory final score was therefore 5-2 to the Cherries. A great game for Bournemouth fans; arguably an even better game for neutrals – if there were any! Some brilliant individual performances, but my Man of the Match was the hard-working Lewis Grabban.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):