Date: 5 April 2014
After a run of four matches in which the Cherries had failed to score, and a run of nine without a Cherries’ victory, I turned up at today’s game with little optimism – suspecting it would be just another £65 (approximately) down the drain and a dreary journey home contemplating how the team “deserved better” for its admirable efforts. But no; I was surprised and delighted by everything about this match. Two Bournemouth goals and a resultant victory not only put the club’s play-off hopes back on track but also restored my own enthusiasm for the beautiful game.
O’Kane was dropped for Surman as we went for a ‘flatter’ 4-4-2 system. No-one doubted that Eunan would be introduced into the game at some point, though the precise circumstances that would lead to this could not have been anticipated. Anyway, in the gloomy grey weather that was to persist all weekend, the match kicked off – and within 10 seconds stopped again! Kermorgant had clashed heads with the QPR captain and both required lengthy treatment on the pitch. Fortunately, both men were able to play on, but Bournemouth seemed to have been unnerved by the incident, and QPR dominated proceedings for most of the first half, Lee Camp keeping us in the match again and again. The Cherries’ attempts at goal were few and far between, but we were holding our own and if the match continued along these lines we were on course for another 0-0 like the last home game I’d witnessed.
This, however, would all change a couple of minutes before half time. A corner on Bournemouth’s right, in front of the Ted MacDougall stand, was taken by Ian Harte. (How good it is to have him taking corner kicks and how well he deserved the “Player of the Month” accolade for March.) As the ball came in several players – not including Elphick – went for it, but someone behind me shouted “Tommy!” It must have been a premonition, for Elphick appeared from nowhere and headed the ball into the net. 1-0. A good time to score, and a fitting reward for both Elphick’s and Harte’s efforts in this and recent games. In terms of game-time, however, the lead was to be short lived. If the first half had started in dramatic fashion, so would the second. QPR kicked off and from a tight angle Traore scored! I glanced at the clock; it showed fewer than thirty seconds since the re-start. I glanced around the stadium; vast numbers of home supporters hadn’t even returned to their seats yet. But the QPR fans in the East Stand, who had returned to their seats, now left them again, surged forwards and cheered like mad. Their players came to them and celebrated with them. In the first half all the singing had come from home fans; the visitors, despite dominating much of the on-pitch action, had been largely mute except for the occasional rather inappropriate burst of anti-Chelsea sentiment (“Stick your blue flag up your *rse!”). But now that all changed – and “Traore! He came from Arsenal...” etc. rang around the Goldsands Stadium for some time.
We pressed on though. The equaliser had been disappointing but to be honest I was still happier than I’d been for some time. The very fact I’d seen a Bournemouth goal in this game made it better than the three previous matches I’d attended, and I’d have settled for a 1-2 defeat and still been glad I came. Yet things were about to get a lot better still. Around the hour mark, an excellent ball from Surman reached Kermorgant on Bournemouth’s left flank. The cross found Grabban who slammed the ball into the net from close range. It wasn’t an elegant goal, but they all count – and especially so this one, for it made the score 2-1 and also represented Grabban’s 20th of the season. (I still recall the joy of being at Swindon Town eighteen years ago this month, with an excellent view from high up in the stand, and seeing Steve Jones score his 20th of the season. But to put matters in context, that was of course in a lower league than this one.) To be 2-1 up against the pre-season favourites for promotion was amazing, of course, and there was now room for some hope that we could hold on to this lead for the remaining half hour. But we were about to encounter our toughest test yet: five to ten minutes later, Arter’s two-footed challenge on QPR’s Junior Hoilett resulted rightly in a straight red card. Eddie knew exactly what to do, as the team had prepared for such a scenario, so O’Kane instantly came on for Kermorgant and we switched to 4-4-1. This frustrated QPR no end, as they just couldn’t make the extra man account, and they were of course still a goal behind. Interestingly, we didn’t stop pressing forward either – especially when Fraser came on five minutes later for Ritchie. Time and again Grabban, Fraser and O’Kane got forward; they may never have looked a lot like scoring but at least we were keeping the ball at the right end of the pitch – in front of the North Stand. At one point, with only a few minutes left to play, we were awarded a free kick in a good position and Harte went to take it. No question of cautiously playing it into the corner as we might have done once; no, we still need to improve our goal difference if we can, and Harte very nearly scored as the ball sailed just over the crossbar.
The man of the match was announced as Tommy Elphick – to great cheers. And the crowd was announced as 11,307 – to wolf whistles from the QPR fans! But this would be the last laugh the visitors would get. Four minutes into added time they were awarded a corner to their left. Howe used our final substitution, sending on Pitman for Pugh. This surprised many, but was generally seen as just a way of running the clock down. Pitman, though, planted himself at the near post; the ball came in towards a QPR head, it was going in for a sure and certain away goal ... and Pitman intercepted it and headed it away to safety. What an inspired substitution! The final whistle sounded immediately – and Pitman’s only action of the entire 90 minutes had been worth two points to us! 2-1. Three useful points. And now we’re equal on points with the 7th placed team, Forest. Last time we played QPR it was followed by a Reading match four days later; this time only three days separate the sides. So roll on Tuesday! Meanwhile, as far as Saturday was concerned: what a wonderful day out!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):