Date: 3 December 2013
Don’t be taken in by any of the clichés being uttered by the manager or players after tonight’s game – “the result flattered QPR” or “we deserved a point” – because they’re simply not true. 3-0 was a fair scoreline, and the fact that the two teams are a league (or two) apart shone through. We were lucky not to have lost by a greater margin.
I guess the most common prediction for the result during the day before the match was indeed 3-0 to QPR. And when we learned the team line-up, with Pitman as a lone striker, many of us predicted how it would come about: we’d go 0-2 down, then switch to 4-4-2 to chase the game, and then let in a third. If Eddie couldn’t see that that was at least a possibility, he’s the only Bournemouth fan who couldn’t!
Eddie now has the luxury of being able to play most of his first choice players. Indeed, apart from the goalie, he could play the team that ended last season. But tonight he chose to include MacDonald and Surman in place of O’Kane and Grabban. The reason why Pitman was chosen as the lone striker was unclear though, in fairness, this was Grabban’s first game back after sickness. Full marks anyway to Eddie for being brave enough to drop Rantie to the bench for the first time since his arrival at the club.
We weren’t exactly overwhelmed by QPR in the early stages of the match, but how often have we said that? Harry Redknapp had done his homework and knew QPR simply had to bide their time until we wore ourselves out with our fancy play. After a brightish start with plenty of possession but no cutting edge, we nearly fell behind to a Charlie Austin shot after ten minutes; but Camp made his best save of the match, tipping the ball over the bar. (It was to be his last significant save, the rest being simply catches.) Austin’s subsequent shot on 27 minutes, though – when Cook had failed to deal with the threat – beat the on-rushing Camp, who was effectively our only awake defender. We took some time to recover from the shock. The same pattern was to recur within ten minutes of the start of the second half: we were on top until QPR broke on their right, crossed to their left, and Hoilett easily beat Francis at the far post – and we again stopped playing. On the hour mark Eddie brought off MacDonald (who’d been playing quite well in front of the back four in a 4-1-4-1 formation, but was a luxury we could no longer afford) and Pitman (who will never be a lone striker); and brought on Rantie with Grabban just behind him in a 4-4-1-1. Rantie ran around a lot, and challenged the QPR keeper at every goal-kick, but the situation didn’t really change much. Howe (perhaps now resigned to a defeat, and with an eye on Saturday’s match at Reading) brought off Ritchie for Fraser. Like Rantie, Fraser showed some early enthusiasm but soon waned. And then a QPR substitute – Phillips – scored QPR’s third from distance with a brilliant solo effort, striking emphatically through the gap between Cook and Daniels. 3-0.
OK, so we were up against a top side tonight (QPR actually went joint top as a result of this match), but we still just weren’t good enough. Every corner (and we had plenty of them), every free kick, every Cook throw, was very poor and showed no evidence of any coaching at all. Defence (apart from Camp) was weak; midfield lacked creativity; and all our strikers appear somewhat toothless playing at this level. We must be on the worst current run of any side in the league. Most teams below us picked up points and we’ve now slipped to 19th. Afterwards Cherries’ fans were talking openly about relegation for the first time since the close season. I’ve just invested over £100 on tickets for the QPR, Reading and Brighton away games plus one home match; and it’s going to be a pretty awful Christmas and New Year if I find I’ve spent it on a run of games like this one.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (5), Elphick (5), Cook (5), Daniels (6);
Ritchie (7), Surman (7), Arter (6), Pugh (7);