Date: 20 September 2014
A Watford fan commented after today’s match that we must be “gutted”. Strangely, we weren’t. The experience of dominating a game, scoring first, and conceding points in the last ten minutes, is so familiar to us now. This was the second time in a week I’d seen us do this; and for those who’d attended the Leeds match it was the third.
A good start to the day. Despite the early kick-off the Wetherspoon was serving an excellent cooked brunch. We got to the ground and discovered a huge improvement: where last season there’d been old terracing on our left, a new stand is almost ready to open and looks very impressive. The team lined up in a way that yielded few surprises. We expect our wingers to be rotated, so it can be any two from four (today it was Ritchie’s and Stanislas’s turn); we usually play 4-5-1 away from home, so Kermorgant was bound to be dropped; and with both MacDonald and Gosling injured the central midfield three choose themselves. Elsewhere Harte was in for Daniels and Boruc for Camp. We feared the latter might have a bad game; but in the event he had a quiet game (just one wonder save in the second half) and it was the former who would let us down very early on...
Just four minutes from kick-off we won a penalty! Wilson was brought down in the area and, although the perpetrator of the crime curiously wasn’t carded, the referee pointed to the spot. Without hesitation Harte stepped up, so he must have been already agreed as a penalty-taker in the absence of Pitman, Kermorgant and Daniels. And we didn’t want a repeat of Wilson’s efforts earlier in the season, did we? Unfortunately, though, that’s exactly what we did get! Harte’s shot sailed miles to the right of the goalmouth; it was nowhere near. If the shot had hit the bar, or been saved, we wouldn’t have complained; but this was dreadful – and such a missed opportunity early in the game. We’d rue this for the rest of the half. And although we dominated proceedings we didn’t get another chance this good until added time when a Wilson header was saved by the keeper. HT: 0-0.
If the first half had begun with disappointment, so did the second. Right in front of the visiting fans now, Surman shot at goal, the keeper parried the shot, and from an extremely tight angle Wilson found the back of the net. Huge cheers from the Bournemouth fans until we discovered that the assistant referee had flagged (correctly, as it turned out) for off-side and the ‘goal’ wouldn’t stand.
The deadlock was finally broken on 63 minutes when Ritchie found Arter in space 25 yards out and he slammed the ball into the net from distance. He was rightly proud of that one, and came over to the Bournemouth fans to join in the celebrations. This would prove to be the only time in the game when a Bournemouth player would shoot on sight; something our players all need to do more often. The next good scoring chance also involved Ritchie, whose cross drifted past the goalmouth and it remains a mystery why Wilson appeared to be on another wavelength and failed to connect with it. Pugh now came on for Stanislas and then – twenty minutes after our own goal – disaster! Cathcart, of Watford, found the net at the other end and it was 1-1. No surprises, but very disappointing, and Bournemouth have now gone more than a month without a league win.
It was now, of course, Watford who pushed for the winner. So, instead of the expected substitution of Fraser for Ritchie, it was actually Smith who took over the midfield role in front of Francis and – although he only had a short time to demonstrate it – played very well, helping to shore up Watford’s left flank until the final whistle sounded.
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 (5);
Ritchie (7), O'Kane (7), Arter (7), Stanislas (6);