Date: 22 February 2014
While conceding that it’s great to be in the Championship, to play at stadia like the iPro, and to see Boscombe (at least for a while) hold their own against Premier League contenders away from home, ultimately matches like this leave me frustrated. It’s been the same too often this season: playing for a 0-0; failing to capitalise on chances to score when they arise; losing to a very late goal; and then blaming the referee, the circumstances, or anything but ourselves for our latest defeat.
Attending today’s match was difficult from the start. Earlier in the week I was notified that my booked trains, both ways, were subject to potential re-timetabling because of a landslip between Chesterfield and Sheffield. I checked the website which said Saturday’s revised timetable wouldn’t be available till Thursday. But when it still hadn’t appeared by Thursday evening, I thought I’d better ring East Midlands Trains’ (premium rate) number for advice. They of course operate that scam where they tell you lots of stuff you’re not interested in, to push up the cost of the call, before transferring you to an operator. But the guy I was eventually connected with knew nothing about the landslip, kept me holding on for ages while he found out (all part of the scam no doubt), and then informed me that 36 hours was a long way off and I should enquire again nearer the time! The only thing he could tell me for sure was that my journey time each way would be increased by at least twenty minutes. So imagine my surprise when the timetable was published on the Friday night, and the original trains had all been reinstated with no increase to journey times at all!
The match itself kicked off with O’Kane still being injured, but being replaced by Surman not MacDonald. So we had two attacking midfielders, plus Rantie and Grabban up front: 4-4-1-1 not 4-1-4-1. Quite positive! And this paid off because apart from the very start we dominated large parts of the first half, playing without fear and showing no awe at playing in such a massive stadium in front of a 27,000+ crowd. First Ritchie hit the post; then Rantie shot off target; then Rantie was beaten to the ball by a Derby defender and he put it just wide (it’s frustrating when our best scoring opportunity to date is an own goal!); and lastly an Elphick header off a Pugh cross missed the target just before half time. This action had all been at the farthest end of the pitch from us, but at least it meant we were in control of the game and unlikely to concede – for now. But all Bournemouth supporters know that if we dominate a game for so long without scoring (and some of our players really do need training in sharp-shooting!) we’ll lose to a very late goal. So at the break, with the score at 0-0, we all knew Derby would score in the last five minutes of the second half and we’d go home with nothing.
The Derby fans had been very quiet during the first half except for booing Lee Camp every time he got the ball; and their loudest cheer to date came during the break when the matchday announcer informed them that Forest (at Burnley) were losing 0-3! But all this was to change. Steve McClaren made two half time substitutions, and Derby’s game (and fans) came alive for the second half. So all the play was still at the furthest end of the stadium from us, with few exceptions. One such exception came just before the hour mark when Rantie put in a good cross but it passed behind all the Bournemouth players in the box. Howe replaced Rantie, who’d been as busy as a bee all game, with Kermorgant – who still has to prove to Bournemouth fans that he was worth buying and that he’s got something Pitman hasn’t. Well he didn’t prove anything today. Initially we went 4-4-2, leading to our worst period of the game. We were looking really poor now; we were being completely overrun in central midfield; and we needed MacDonald (in the absence of O’Kane) to give us some stability in that area. The next substitution (Fraser for Ritchie on the right flank, twenty minutes from time) seemed irrelevant to the trouble we were in; the game had become very scrappy and Bournemouth’s flowing football of the first half had totally dried up. But the final substitution with fifteen minutes to go – MacDonald for Pugh – was a good one. MacDonald slotted in behind Arter and Surman, while Fraser (right) and Grabban (left) flanked Kermorgant up front (4-1-2-3). The team had good shape again. But we still weren’t getting many scoring chances. And the likelihood of Derby snatching the winner increased. With five minutes of normal time to go, Elphick conceded a free kick by tackling Derby’s Hughes. Regardless of the rights or wrongs of the free kick, (all our players protested,) we shouldn’t, after the way we’d played in the first half, have been in this situation where one disputed free kick could determine the outcome of the whole match. Derby’s Martin scored of course from the free kick, as every Bournemouth fan hoped he wouldn’t but knew he would. This would give Eddie and the players the opportunity – post match – to whinge that we were robbed and that we deserved better. We didn’t really; and if we keep playing like this we’ll keep getting such results. The referee’s addition of four extra minutes’ play didn’t fill us with any hope. Harte had a free kick that went over the bar at the death, and we deservedly (though no spokesman for the club is likely to admit it) lost 0-1.
It’s no fun trudging away from the ground after a game like this. The lunchtime pub had been too full to make hot food a viable option, and returning to it now (1) food availability had ceased (2) it was more packed than ever and (3) there was no-one there whom I knew anyway. Most of the pubs around the station weren’t admitting away fans, and there seemed to be nothing to do in that vicinity to kill an hour and a half until my train was due. At least the Costa Coffee in the station was open – but with no seating. Then, having ‘taken away’ my coffee and cake to the neighbouring waiting room, I found there was nowhere to dispose of rubbish. The day wasn’t getting any better. And finally, to cap it all, I had to endure a rowdy homeward journey with a train full of Millwall fans. There are times when I feel relieved that the season only has a couple more months to run!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), Elphick (8), Cook (7), Harte (6);
Ritchie (6), Arter (7), Surman (7), Pugh (6);