Date: 2 November 2013
Both Bournemouth and Bolton are in surprising positions within the Championship league table at present. Wanderers would have expected a good season but began today near the foot of the table; meanwhile the Cherries who were originally hoping for a mid-table position at best have started the season brightly. Today’s match, however, went the way most people would have expected pre-season, and I strongly suspect Bolton will overtake Boscombe in the table sometime soon.
So what caused Bournemouth to slip up today while Bolton triumphed? Probably the blustery conditions. Obviously this affected both sides equally, but Bournemouth seem unable to find an alternative style of play for such occasions. (Is this Eddie’s weakness, the lack of a plan B?) Certainly the weather surprised fans too; many found the stadium chilly enough in the first half – when the sun in our eyes didn’t help – but after the sun had set behind the Main Stand at half time it got even colder. The attendance looked excellent, the Ted MacDougall, Main and North stands all looking full. Indeed when announced it turned out to be over 10,000, one of the best for a while. But some combination of the wintry conditions and the kind of match being played out, meant the crowd never really came alight. And the worst thing was, there was no point at which we really looked like getting anything out of this game. At 0-1 down (which we were for a large part of the match) a comeback such as we’d seen against Millwall looked exceedingly unlikely. So, for many, the sooner the game could finish the better!
Eddie had made three changes to the team since last time out, all of them enforced. Elphick replaced the suspended Ward; MacDonald replaced Collison whose loan period had come to an end; and Camp replaced Henderson, injured at the Nottingham Forest match. Camp didn’t have a particularly busy game. (Neither did the other goalie, apart from saving a Rantie shot with his legs in the first half!) Camp, like everyone else, struggled with the high winds. Once, in the first half, he sent a goal kick flying straight into the East Stand. Moments later, though, he made up for that by producing his best save of the match, punching a ball over the crossbar for a corner. There was also an occasion in the second period when Camp wandered a very long way out from his goal – but got away with it. MacDonald was one of our busiest players – officially playing in front of the back four but quite often popping up behind them as necessary. All play seemed to go through him, but one man can’t make a team. Francis possibly covered more ground than anyone else, but the final cross was often lacking quality. The first half went end to end, with not much to separate the teams. Bolton, though, looked more likely to score if only because they’d got both Ngog and Beckford in their line-up. Sure enough, Ngog got himself onto the score sheet in the 38th minute when Lee passed to him, and his shot from a tight angle (forced by the positioning of Cook and Camp) rolled into the goal in apparent slow motion, with the Bournemouth players unable to stop it. 0-1, Camp looking dejected after conceding his first goal at Bournemouth, and Bolton’s fans singing their hearts out at the other end of the ground.
So, 0-1 and, with no changes (in personnel or even in tactics) at half time, things continued much the same after the break. The conditions seemed to result in a higher number of corner kicks than I’ve seen in one game for a while. But most of Bournemouth’s were taken short and came to nothing. There were also more opportunities for Cook to display his prowess at the long throw (Delap-style) from promising, advanced, positions; but though he was always on target no player in the area was ever able to capitalise on these. Just after the hour mark Thomas came on for Rantie and Pitman for Fraser (Grabban, as in previous games, moving to the right wing to accommodate these substitutions). Rantie and Fraser had certainly been the poorest passers of the ball today, so the substitutions weren’t unwelcome. But nothing much changed. The final substitution (Surman for a tiring MacDonald on the 85th minute) had a greater effect. Surman of course played further forward than MacDonald, and this central role evidently suits him a lot better than the wing role he was given at Forest. His first touch almost led to a goal scoring opportunity, and interestingly of our three shots on target today two came from substitutes – Surman and Pitman. Pitman also put a free kick over the crossbar; and, late in the game, Pugh shot over the bar too. But as 4 minutes of additional time was announced we still didn’t look like ever scoring; and at the death, while we were still evidently chasing the equaliser, Beckford managed to slam the ball home from inside Bournemouth’s box, sending Wanderers’ supporters into ecstasy. 2-0 to Bolton, both their strikers on the score sheet, and a fair result to be honest.
At the start of the day, two Championship teams – Bournemouth and Forest – had scored in every single game of the season to date. By the end of the afternoon, neither had scored and both teams’ runs had come to an end!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):