Date: 15 February 2014
Having been disappointed with points dropped in recent games, I must say that today’s result seemed fair to me; and to achieve a score draw against a side currently occupying one of the automatic promotion slots, and boasting two of the division’s highest scorers, is no mean feat.
My expectation on the Friday, when severe overnight storms were forecast, was that there’d be trains but no match. I just hoped the match would be called off early enough to save me a wasted journey. But in the event the opposite was true: there was a match but no trains! So I sped down the motorway to find the town enjoying some sunshine and the pitch looking good (though it wasn’t in practice as good as it looked). But once again the torrential rain returned just after kick-off, drifting in under the East Stand so that even those of us near the back had to suffer it for a while. The Main and North Stands looked almost full, and it was later announced that there were in fact 9000 home fans present – plus 1400 from Burnley who’ll have been even more relieved than I that the match went ahead!
The afternoon’s proceedings began with a minute’s silence in memory of Sir Tom Finney, that was impeccably observed – except for one balloon popping half way through! As the match kicked off, we noted that Eddie had opted for a change of formation: 4-4-1-1 instead of the usual 4-1-4-1. So the position normally occupied by O’Kane was scrapped; O’Kane himself took over from Surman in midfield; and Rantie led the line with Grabban slotting in just behind him. Although the Cherries dominated much of the first half, evidently adapting to the conditions better than the visitors, the system had its faults. O’Kane effectively continued to play the ‘sweeping’ role he’s so good at, and often this was needed, but with the wingers Ritchie and Pugh playing very wide this left Arter with too much work to do. The only shot worthy of mention in the first half was a long distance power drive by Francis in the 19th minute, that was on target but was deftly saved by the Burnley keeper. Ritchie got injured on the half hour mark but was able to play on, bandaged (the bandage being replaced by a distinctive black headband at half time). More worryingly O’Kane – who’d been presented with the January Player of the Month award before today’s game – then got injured, evidently a hip injury. Despite only one minute of the first half remaining Eddie didn’t wait and see, but immediately replaced him with MacDonald – who happily fitted in to the right of Arter, thus replicating the flat midfield that we adopted for so many games last season. So 0-0 at half time.
As the second half got underway it appeared to be Burnley that were most determined to get something out of this match. But they couldn’t penetrate Boscombe’s defence and in fact the first goal, against the run of play, came from the home side. Harte took responsibility for a corner kick at the corner between the North and East Stands. The ball swung in towards a densely packed penalty area but it was the smallest player there – Rantie – who timed his (backwards) run to perfection to head it into the net. 1-0. Learning from his mistake of last time, he didn’t over-celebrate, but he did run towards the East Stand to accept the acclaim of the (to be honest) astonished Cherries’ fans! Burnley almost immediately retaliated, Ings on the break shooting wide of the target and inevitably being mocked for it. And Burnley went on pressing forward, though they were shooting on sight and somewhat wildly. But then manager Sean Dyche made an inspired double substitution within a period of a minute or so on the hour mark. He replaced both his wingers, and it was the two substitutes – Wallace and Treacy – who would be jointly responsible for Burnley’s equaliser just five minutes later. Wallace put in a cross from the Burnley right, it deflected off Arter, and Treacy put it into the net from close range. 1-1. And this was to be the final score, though no-one would have expected it at the time. Both sides continued to press, but Bournemouth more so. Kermorgant came on for goal scorer Rantie, taking up the same position in front of Grabban, and won a corner on almost his first touch. Shortly after, Grabban was tripped just outside the penalty area by the aptly named Kieran Trippier! He subsequently fell inside the penalty area, but the referee wasn’t fooled by that. It was Kermorgant who took the free kick but it was too close to the goal to facilitate an ‘up and over’ shot. Nonetheless this is exactly what Kermorgant attempted and, if he was surprised when the ball soared over the crossbar, then he was the only person in the stadium who was! The choice of Kermorgant and later Pitman as substitutes (though the only thing of note that Pitman achieved, apart from apparently bringing on some instructions from Howe, was getting himself booked) showed that it was the home side who were most determined to try and get the winner. Meanwhile, in contrast, on the 81st minute Dyche had replaced Vokes with Jones: a defensive midfielder for a striker, to shore up the Burnley defence. Elphick had a header saved by the lightest of finger-touches by the Burnley goalie; Kermorgant narrowly missed one more shot; and Francis clipped the crossbar; but the 1-1 scoreline held out through to the end of four minutes’ added time.
Man of the Match? Well the sponsors gave it to Rantie – presumably because of the goal. The texters gave it to Arter, which I didn’t agree with at all as I thought he had a relatively poor game. Camp had nothing to do; O’Kane may have been a contender if he’d played more than 44 minutes; and both Elphick and Harte certainly were contenders over the full ninety. But my vote goes to Marc Pugh, who I thought had one of his best games in some time.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):