Date: 16 August 2014
“Here we go again,” I thought, as I went through the usual pre-match ritual: train to Woking, coffee and cake, train to Bournemouth, all-day breakfast, wander over to the stadium, pick up my ticket. To be honest, it all seemed too soon after the end of last season. And as that had been a season I’d rather forget (nine defeats, five draws, four wins) I wasn’t exactly looking forward to today. But, hey, it’s gotta be done!
In the event the day proved very enjoyable. A win obviously helps of course! Good to meet up with old friends. And what a friendly lot the Bees’ supporters are! I lost count of how many spoke to me at each stage of the outward and return journeys, but every last one of them was so friendly. I wish them well for the season.
At the Goldsands Stadium, apart from the new press section between the home and away ends of the East Stand, not much seems to have changed. There appears to be more mess than ever outside. And fewer than ever numbered seats in the stadium (about one in twenty in our row)! But I must say the new pitch – even on this gloomy cloudy Bournemouth day (it had been warm and sunny when I left home!) – looked to be in wonderful condition, if a tad narrower than last year’s. The away section was completely full, but the home stands weren’t. There are still a number of people on holiday I guess. The team looked familiar too. Only Wilson was new to me out of the starting line-up. Otherwise there was scarcely any change in personnel from the end of last season; and none whatever since last Saturday - except on the bench, where Smith had replaced Ward and Fraser replaced Pitman. The latter change would prove crucial later on!
Brentford had the earliest scoring chance, hitting the bar after about four minutes. A little later, we attempted a traditional Boscombe ‘step over’ routine from a corner kick, and Kermorgant’s resultant low shot almost came off but was saved by the keeper. We won two more corner kicks immediately after this one, but never tried the same technique again. For the rest of the first half (and indeed most of the second) Brentford more than held their own; frustrating Bournemouth, testing us on the break, and getting in several shots – albeit wild ones! They need to work on their shooting! The stalemate wasn’t broken until in the sixty-fifth minute Eddie made a double substitution. Wingers Ritchie and Pugh were replaced by Fraser and Stanislas respectively, the latter making his home debut. This seemed a little harsh on Ritchie who, for my money, had been Man of the Match thus far. Almost every shot on goal had come from him. But the substitution paid off because the replacement wingers didn’t play in such wide positions; they effectively flanked Kermorgant in a 4-2-3-1 system with O’Kane and Arter as holding midfielders. And both subs were involved in the goal: Fraser charging down the right flank and putting in an excellent low cross to Stanislas, beating the Brentford keeper and defenders, and facilitating an easy shot. Stanislas could hardly have missed (thought no doubt some players would!) and this is a great start for him in Bournemouth colours, especially as he attempted several shots on goal on Tuesday as well.
For the rest of the game (18 minutes, plus four added-on) we held on. It was quite nervy – though in fairness that was how Bournemouth had been all game. Brentford, with less to lose, had shown a lot more pluck. Elphick picked up a late injury but had to hobble on because we’d already used all three substitutions. It will be interesting to see if he is fit for Tuesday. I wouldn’t make any other changes though; no-one in Cherries’ colours played badly today, though Wilson showed a tendency to attempt shots from tricky angles when he’d got better options open to him, such as winning a corner. And Arter was once again too hot-headed: committing too may fouls, getting several talking’s-to from the referee, and probably deserving to be booked though curiously he never was. And speaking of what was deserved, Brentford to be honest deserved a point from this match. But they didn’t get it! 1-0!
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 (8), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (8), O'Kane (7), Arter (6), Pugh (7);