Date: 18 March 2014
It’s now four matches (360 minutes of play) since I last saw Boscombe score a goal; and nine matches (810 minutes) since I witnessed a Cherries’ victory. In money terms, at an average of £60 a game, the ‘hobby’ of being a Bournemouth fan gives me one goal for every £240 spent, and one victory for every £540. Not a great return on investment! But of course these are the kinds of calculation I wouldn’t even be making if I’d enjoyed a good evening out – which clearly I didn’t.
First impressions of Charlton’s stadium are always impressive until you look at the detail. A sign advised “No alcohol is allowed pass [sic] this point.” And the pitch is dreadful; the goal in front of us was so sandy/muddy that both keepers were continually having to knock the dirt off their boots. But once the game started we would have hoped not to be noticing such things.
Eddie had hinted he was going to change things around, “freshen things up,” for this match – which I hoped might mean MacDonald would get an opportunity in place of one of our three central midfielders who’d looked so tired on Saturday; and Kermorgant (or, if he wasn’t fit, Pitman) would get a chance up front so that we went 4-4-1-1 instead of 4-1-4-1. But none of this happened. Pitman wasn’t even on the bench; and apart from a change of wingers (in practice starting today with the wingers we ended with on Saturday) nothing had been “freshened up” at all. And it showed. The three central midfielders looked as knackered as ever; so did Pugh. Grabban tried to make up for Pugh’s deficiencies by helping out on the left and often running into the corner, but this left no-one in the box for him to pass to. Fraser looked livelier than anyone else, operating tirelessly on the right, but evidently having also been given a fairly free role. Sometimes he got into the box, but he was hardly tall enough to deal with the hoofed-forward passes. And in one crazy moment when we were defending a free kick near our own goal in the second half, it was he who made up the one-man ‘wall’ trying to keep the shot out! It was lucky for us that Charlton’s shooting was so wild – often resulting in chants of “that’s why you’re going down” from the away fans!
Pugh had one shot on goal in the first minute, and we won a lot of early corners. (The ‘new’ corner routine attempted by O’Kane on Saturday was attempted again – this time by Harte – but once again it didn’t come off.) We dominated the first half hour in terms of possession and as so often played some ‘pretty’ football but, as a Charlton fan pointed out to us (needlessly!) after the game, we had no cutting edge so this effort was all to no avail. As half time approached with the score at 0-0, and Charlton once hit the post, it was clear that they were coming into the game more – a sign of things to come, sadly.
It wasn’t that Charlton were great in the second half, but they seemed to want the win more than we did. (The fact that this victory would, by the end of the evening, bring them out of the relegation zone, showed that they were justified in thinking thus.) Of course, this doesn’t bode well for the remainder of the season, because so many of the teams we play will, for one reason or other, ‘need’ it more. Anyway, we continued to play – apparently – for a 0-0 and a fifth clean sheet in a row. Kermorgant came on at about the hour mark, perhaps mainly because this was Charlton, his old club. He didn’t replace our most ‘forward’ central midfielder – Surman – as one might have expected, but replaced O’Kane and played to the right of Grabban in a flat 4-4-2. Yann’s name was now chanted almost continuously by away fans and, whenever we stopped for a breather, the same chant was taken up by the home fans who clearly love him dearly. (Charlton’s supporters cheered Francis too. All of which was a big contrast to Wiggins who was relentlessly booed by Boscombe fans!) Unfortunately, though, Yann’s arrival made little difference, because he got no service from our weary midfield. So Eddie now brought on Rantie in a straight swap for Grabban. He too couldn’t have asked for a better reception (chants of “T.K. Rantie baby!”) but he was very disappointing indeed. He showed great pace when running forward but couldn’t hold the ball up to save his life, and was useless whenever he had his back to goal. Meanwhile, at one point, Yann somehow managed to collide with the hoarding in front of the dugouts (Charlton has an interesting set-up whereby both dugouts are situated between the two technical areas, so the opposing managers are kept a long way apart!). His collision resulted in a sickening thud, which made all our hearts sink. Play continued, as Kermorgant wasn’t on the pitch of course, but some of us feared he was going to be out of the game for a very long time. We were all astounded therefore when he jumped back onto his feet and returned to the field of play apparently unscathed!
The game continued to be dominated by Charlton, while Bournemouth gave the Charlton keeper – immediately in front of our fans – absolutely nothing to do all half. Near the end, Fraser was substituted – maybe so that he could receive an ovation as our clear Man of the Match – and we welcomed Smith onto the pitch for the first time since he re-signed for the club. I thought this would mean Francis would become a third centre back, with Smith at right back, all working together to protect our clean sheet. But no: Smith played the rest of the match as a right midfielder. In injury time the ‘inevitable’ (for Bournemouth fans) occurred: as it had at my last away match, at Derby. We conceded a very late goal. Lee Camp had saved a free kick by punching it over the bar, but Dervite headed in from the ensuing corner. Boscombe won one more corner after this, for which Camp unbelievably came forward – as though this were a cup final! This was totally illogical as, at the same point on Saturday, when a Bournemouth goal would have been worth two points, he didn’t come up for the corner kick; but tonight, when it would only have been worth one point, he did. Anyway, nothing came of it. The final whistle blew. Bournemouth players came over to applaud the fans – quite rightly – but most of us didn’t see any reason to return the compliment. We sloped away miserably, and I for one felt relieved at the thought that I’ve only got two more games to attend this season. Then, perhaps, time to find a new ‘hobby’?
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):