Date: 28 December 2014
Yesterday I was regretting having ever decided to attend this match. But by 5 o’clock today, I was so glad I did!
The main reasons for my reluctance to go, revolved around the fact that I had a church service to conduct this morning, and wouldn’t be away from the church before 12 at the very earliest. I would then have to travel via a pub (that was not really on the route) to pick up my ticket, before taking a rail replacement bus to South Bermondsey. Much of this I hadn’t realised when I’d first committed to going. And I haven’t even mentioned the facts that I appear to have been overcharged (by a tenner) for my ticket, and that (unbeknownst to any of us) the rail replacement bus service was due to stop whilst the match was on – so the return journey would involve a long walk to Bermondsey tube station.
So why, in the end, was I so glad I made the effort? Well I got to see the Cherries win by more than a single goal margin for the first time since 5 October 2013 – which coincidentally was also a match against Millwall! I’d seen six wins in my previous 24 matches, so felt I was due another; especially considering the fact that the Cherries are now supposedly the top team in the Championship!
It was sit-where-you-like today for away fans (so presumably not a sell-out), and a very sparse attendance on the part of home fans. One of the first things I noticed inside the ground was that the scoreboard was out of order. Had they deliberately decommissioned it fearing the sort of six- or eight-goal drubbing we’d given Blackpool and Birmingham respectively (neither of which, of course, I’d been fortunate enough to see)?! The biggest surprise in our line-up was the appearance of TK Rantie on the bench (Boscombe fans sang to him every time he warmed up, but he never came on). O’Kane had lost his place on the bench to make way. As far as the starting 11 was concerned, the only two changes from the previous few Championship games were Smith for Pugh and Kermorgant for Pitman. The latter change was curious given that Pitman had apparently had his match-of-the-season two days earlier. The former change was interesting: on paper two left-sided players who are both capable of playing either the full back or the wide midfield role should be great – as they are very capable of interchanging – but such relationships take time to develop. There was some evidence of this starting to happen, but they need more opportunity to practise it. Elsewhere on the pitch, Wilson (always in the right place), Arter and Surman had great games; meanwhile Boruc had very little to do, but his very presence gave the team confidence.
Kermorgant could have given us the lead from a free kick in the first couple of minutes, but his on-target shot was saved. Millwall were just coming into the game when they gave away a stupid, soft penalty; Daniels (who of course used to be our penalty taker) being brought down and Kermorgant confidently dispatching the ball into the bottom left corner of the net for 1-0. Half time was fast approaching when a cross from Wilson found Arter who managed to beat three defenders and swivel round on the ball to shoot with his right foot. 2-0, and one could see how much the goal meant to Harry as he sped the length of the pitch to celebrate with us fans. (I only later discovered that one reason for the excitement was that this was his fifth goal in as many Championship matches.)
Millwall made some substitutions, and came into the game a bit more in the second half. But they never really looked like scoring. Our own substitutions (much later on) were all like-for-like; with Fraser for Ritchie, Pugh for Smith, and Gosling for Kermorgant. Gosling hadn’t been on the pitch long when, following a cross from Pugh, he had a shot on goal – that unfortunately was wide of the target. Millwall’s defeat was pretty well assured when they had Williams sent off with a straight red card. Following an incident involving Wilson, Wilson was yellow-carded but Williams’ retaliation (pushing his head into Wilson’s shoulder, and appearing to stamp on his foot simultaneously), which took place right in front of the away fans, was so brutal that it unquestionably deserved a sending-off. There was still time for Wilson to get another perfect cross in to Arter, in the box, which the latter unfortunately skyed. Arter knew he should have done better, and shamefully buried his head in his shirt. It may seem greedy to have wanted 3-0 rather than 2-0, but if only Arter had scored there would been a goal at our end; as it was, we had to be content with two great goals at the other end which we could watch again on YouTube in the days ahead!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), Elphick (7), Cook (6), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (6), Surman (8), Arter (8), Smith (7);