Date: 22 November 2014
On a gloomy afternoon in Boscombe, (but without any of the rain that had been forecast,) the Cherries acquitted themselves well against a team with a far superior pedigree – so much so that Ipswich fans were visibly relieved to have earned one point by the end of this game.
Ipswich fans arrived en masse – and there was a sea of blue shirts around the stadium before kick-off – to help us achieve a near-capacity crowd of 11,115. From where I sat, I could scarcely see an unoccupied seat. Not that the visitors were impressed: when the attendance figure was announced, they mocked and jeered. At other times they sang, “You’ve never won f**k all!” But I wonder who’ll have the last laugh at the end of the season?
There were no real surprises in the home team’s line-up. Kermorgant was preferred over Pitman, and Stanislas had replaced Harte on the bench, but otherwise the team was unchanged from before the international break. The Cherries certainly started brightly, with Ritchie hitting the cross-bar within sixty seconds of the kick-off and a spectacular Kermorgant scissor-kick, off a Francis cross, giving us the lead as early as the second minute. Apart from a Murphy shot that hit the woodwork, most of the next half hour of the game was dominated by Bournemouth, pushing for a second goal. Another Francis cross found Surman, whose diving header was caught by the Ipswich keeper. But in the final ten minutes of the half, Ipswich seemed to realise where they were going wrong, and started pressing higher up the pitch. A shot from Berra was tipped over the bar by Boruc, as was a subsequent header from another Ipswich player. On the stroke of half-time a powerful shot from Pugh, that could have put us two goals up, was saved; so we went into the break with the score at 1-0.
Ipswich continued to press, though, from the restart – and their persistence was rewarded within five minutes when a low cross from Mings, on the Ipswich left, found Bishop who was unchallenged as he calmly shot home. 1-1; but the Cherries’ response didn’t take long. Within five minutes Ritchie charged up the pitch and, despite being flagged off-side, pressed on and put in the shot – for which he was yellow-carded. Ironically he’d missed the target anyway! But five minutes after that, Wilson, on Bournemouth’s left, beat three Ipswich defenders before crossing to Ritchie, in a central position, who smashed the ball into the net to restore the home team’s lead. This, though, was to be virtually Wilson’s last contribution of the match, as he hobbled off with a suspected hamstring problem. It was probably no more than a precaution, but in fact this didn’t appear a bad move at the time – as Rantie’s pace seemed to be exactly what was needed. In any case, Rantie is currently in top form for his country – having scored a brace against Nigeria earlier in the week. However, the very first time TK sped forward with the ball in this game, within a couple of minutes of coming on, he was charged down in the area by no fewer than two Ipswich players, who appeared to dislocate his shoulder in the process. The clock showed 62 as paramedics came onto the pitch, and 71 when the game restarted after Rantie had been stretchered off to a waiting ambulance. So we knew there would be ten or more minutes to be added at the end of the game; more to the point, we’d now lost both our “number 9s” in quick succession. And the foul on Rantie hadn’t even earned us a penalty!
Pitman came on and was given the – to him – unfamiliar role of leading the line, while Kermorgant continued to play just behind him. Pugh, who was having a good game, got in a shot from outside the box. The rebound should have been met by Pitman but he wasn’t paying attention – which doesn’t bode well if he’s going to be asked to play in this position again. Then, within five minutes of the long break in play, a free kick was given against Francis and from the set-play an unmarked Murphy scored with his head. 2-2.
Not surprisingly, 12 minutes of extra time was announced (which ended up being 14). That’s probably the most I’ve ever witnessed. In this period Arter had a close range shot that went straight into the Ipswich keeper’s stomach, and right at the end a perfect Ritchie cross found Pitman who skied the shot into the North Stand. But at the end, as with the home games against Rotherham (September), Leicester (February) and Watford (January) this year, it was the away fans who were rooted to their spots cheering – while the home fans offered half-hearted applause whilst making their way out of the stadium. Following such a thrilling game, and possible goal of the season from Kermorgant, this ending was something of an anti-climax. Yann’s goal on its own earned him the sponsors’ man of the match award, but I think the chief contenders were Ritchie, Arter and Pugh. I’m giving it to Pugh because he’s just constantly improving and seems to be right on top of his game at the moment.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):