Graham Pearcey

Graham Pearcey

Nottingham Forest 1 Cherries 1

Date: 19 October 2013

This would have been a great day out, even without the match result. Trains to and from Nottingham were just £10 each way today. The Nottingham pub we traditionally meet in has grown in size – providing more tables – and has started providing delicious hot meals in addition to the filled rolls that used to be their only food offering. I took the opportunity to meet up with Forest fans I know (through The College of Preachers) as well as Cherries fans (through the Exiles). And the bad weather even held off – until the early evening!

But the match itself was the icing on the cake. Repeating our scoreline of 29 April 2006 (although only two members of that team – Purches and Fletcher – remain at Bournemouth, and neither of them plays for the first team anymore) we again put paid to the idea that this match is ‘Big Club versus Minnows’.  On the bus between the two lunchtime pubs I overheard a Forest fan telling her friend that today’s result was a shoo-in for her club; she was looking forward to seeing so many Forest goals that she’d be guaranteed her money’s worth. I’d love to have heard what the same woman had to say after the match!

Pre-match discussions about Bournemouth’s team selection centred around whether MacDonald would feature alongside Collison and Arter in a three-man central midfield (and, if so, who’d be dropped); and whether Daniels was fit enough to return in place of Harte. In the end, though, there was only one change from the previous outing: Surman for Fraser. And surprisingly Surman, not generally regarded as a winger, played in Fraser’s own position wide on the right – so everyone else was ‘as you were’. The first event worthy of note was on the seventh minute when Henderson saved a shot, but somehow spilled it to his left; and a Forest player charging in to try and capitalise on the mistake inadvertently clashed with Henderson’s shoulder – dislocating it! As he writhed in agony on the ground, looking for all the world like someone having a fit, we could see this injury was serious. Both clubs physio’s attended to him, a stretcher was prepared, and Allsop immediately began warming up. Full marks to Forest fans: when Henderson was eventually stretchered off they all stood and joined us in applauding him. (We were already standing. For some curious reason, and much to the annoyance of children and shorter adults, away fans never sit at Forest although they each have an allocated seat – and the stewards seem happy to allow this.) Allsop proved a perfectly acceptable substitute though; the main difference being that whereas Henderson tries to keep the game moving by clearing quickly, Allsop seems to slow it down. Ironically, it was only towards the end when we were trying to hold on to a 1-1 draw that Allsop started panicking and clearing quickly. I think he was reading off a different hymn sheet from everyone else, and thought we were wanting to win 2-1!

The first half was somewhat end to end, but Forest unquestionably dominated. They had several apparently easy chances to score, that they fluffed. But there were also many more occasions when Ward and Cook (and Collison and Arter often playing deep) excellently blocked their way to goal.  In the end, with five minutes to half time, Lansbury tried something different: shooting a screamer from distance, straight through our defence, giving Allsop no chance. 1-0 the score, but more worryingly Forest had now found a way to score and would no doubt try this again in the second half. But – surprisingly – we had the chance to equalise just before the half time whistle. An amazing seven minutes had been added to the half (mainly for Henderson’s injury, but there’d also been a substitution of one linesman for reasons we never discovered), which looked as though it would benefit Forest more than us; but then a Grabban shot hit the post before Francis’ shot from the rebound went over the bar. 1-0 to Forest, though, was a fair scoreline going into the break.

The second half began (at 14 minutes past 4 – it was going to be a late night at this rate!) with Daniels on for Harte – who’d done nothing wrong but didn’t offer much pace down the left wing. Daniels initially showed some of his old flair but ultimately didn’t look match fit, and Howe had certainly been proved right in his decision not to play him for the full ninety minutes. Dangerously, of course, we could now only make one more substitution. The away fans were screaming for Pitman (Surman on the wing was definitely our weakest link) but would have to wait until fifteen minutes before the end to see him. This half continued much like the first: end to end, and with Forest dominating but missing good chances to go further ahead.  In the 61st minute Forest’s Henderson (no relation, as far as I know) missed an open target; and two minutes later he appeared to score. The referee waved play on, having spotted some infringement or other (presumably a foul), but most Forest fans (and players!) failed to notice this. Rantie got the ball and tore down Bournemouth’s right flank – towards the away supporters – in a brilliant solo effort. But, despite his attempts to hold the ball up, no other Bournemouth player could catch up, and the effort fizzled out – but not before everyone had had the chance to see Rantie at his very best. There were several occasions today when he demonstrated why Howe shows such faith in him. And Eddie’s post-match comment that Rantie is like Grabban at the end of last season, justifying his selection despite not scoring, was absolutely spot on. For the first time, he was a contender for Man of the Match, and after the game he was the one Bournemouth player the Forest supporters were asking about. (Learning that he ‘only’ cost about 2 million, one Forest fan responded that they could easily afford to buy two of him then!)

Bournemouth’s period of domination only really began about twenty minutes before the end – just before Pitman eventually came on, as previously reported. We then switched from 4-4-1-1 (Grabban playing behind Rantie) to 4-4-2 (Pitman playing to the left of Rantie up front, with Grabban moving to the right flank). Pitman immediately started to make a difference, and it wasn’t long before a Pugh shot landed in the back of the net. But it was ruled offside, and play continued, still favouring Boscombe. When the board went up for five added minutes we’d have happily accepted even more because now we were looking more likely to score than Forest. And then the magic moment, the highlight of the day. Rantie got the ball in the penalty area and passed perfectly to Pugh on his left. Pugh’s angle was tight, he scuffed the shot, it didn’t look pretty, but ... it was in the back of the net. And that’s all that counts! Cue wild scenes of celebration from the 1000+ away supporters behind the goal. Forest fans, meanwhile, fell silent and some began to slip away (well it was after 5 o’clock by now). We’d done what everyone seemed to think we couldn’t do: score a point at this massive stadium – with all its glorious history – in front of 27,000 home fans.

Arter even managed to get in a shot after that. 2-1 to us would of course have been amazing, but to be honest was more than we deserved. The only sad thing was that such a hard-earned point at a seemingly impossible venue saw us slip one place down the league table (8th to 9th) while Forest remain 4th. But all these points could make a difference come the end of the season, and who knows what the relative league positions of Forest and Bournemouth will be when we next meet, at Dean Court, towards the end of April 2014?

The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):

Henderson (7);
Francis (7), Ward (8), Cook (8), Harte (7);
Surman (5), Collison (6), Arter (7), Pugh (7);
Grabban (7);
Rantie (8)

My 'man of the match' : Cook.

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