Date: 6 March 2015
For the first time since November 2012 I had the pleasure of seeing the Cherries win by four clear goals. Oh, I know they've done it a few times, but not in this part of the world where I can watch it. That November 2012 game was just after Eddie's return to the club, and it was at home to Dagenham & Redbridge of all teams - a scenario very different from tonight's.
This always looked like being a good evening. The full moon was very much in evidence as I set out from home, and I got all the way from my home station to the inside of the stadium in under an hour. And what a stadium it is these days, compared with what I remember from the past! The magnificent away stand can seat thousands, but there must be enough toilets underneath for everyone to 'go' at once without queuing! And enough refreshment counters for everyone to buy a pie at once without queuing either! And a high table, to stand and eat/drink at, that runs the full length of the stand. And all these facilities - toilets, refreshment bars, tables - are spotlessly clean and well-maintained. The food was delicious too: or, at least, my chicken Balti pie was. And already - with some three quarters of an hour to kick off - Cherries' fans were arriving in droves and singing loudly. In the end, there would be 1900 of us, and the singing wouldn't stop all evening.
There was one change from the previous line-up. And no, it wasn't "Arter for Kermorgant" as announced on Sky; it was actually Pitman for Kermorgant. Some fans were criticising this decision; especially as Kermorgant had been Man of the Match on Tuesday; but they would eat their words later! Other fans were more interested in discussing the Steve Cook situation: he was one point off a suspension, so surely he'd deliberately get himself booked - in order to miss the Blackpool and Cardiff games and return for the Middlesbrough one? Well, we'd have to wait and see. Boscombe began brightly enough, attacked well and had some chances on goal, but for most of the first half hour it was looking like it would be "one of those days" - where we get all the possession and nothing to show for it. The closest we came to scoring in this period was on nine minutes when a Pugh shot was palmed over the bar by the Fulham keeper. But the breakthrough came on the half hour mark when in a congested area, at the far end of the pitch from where we were standing, a player who was standing close to the penalty spot shot and scored. There was a little discussion as to who the scorer was, but we should have guessed. After all, who was our penalty taker in the team? Pitman! 1-0; probably not enough yet to satisfy the doubters who thought Pitman shouldn't have started, but that would come...
Eight minutes later Ritchie obtained the ball just outside the box on Boscombe's right flank. Francis immediately ran beyond him, while other Bournemouth players jostled for position to receive the inevitable pass from either Ritchie or Francis. Fulham players tried to defend against any of these possibilities, but no-one expected what would actually happen: Ritchie shot direct at goal from where he stood, and scored! The Fulham goalie and defenders had been made to look like statues, and we were 2-0 up going into half-time. Of course, all Bournemouth supporters know not to celebrate too soon!
Fulham started the second half more brightly, and looked likely to be the next team to score. (On 54 minutes Wilson had the ball in the net, but he'd already been flagged for offside. In fact he was lucky not to be booked for playing on after the whistle.) And then, a quarter of an hour into this half, and right in front of the away supporters, we got to witness the goal of the evening (goal of the season?). Pitman received the ball from Elphick in our own half, and started to run forward. There was no-one obvious to pass to, so he just kept running - and running - and beat three Fulham players in the process. Not known for his pace, Pitman on this occasion ran as if his life depended on it, and the resultant shot - and goal - raised the loudest cheers ever. The phrase "solo effort" was surely invented for goals such as this? Brett celebrated with the players, and then with us; and there were no doubters remaining now! That is, no more doubters about the team selection. But, incredibly, there would soon be reason to doubt the result on the night; because Fulham, within five minutes, had scored a goal of their own. Beating Elphick, Fulham's half-time substitute Smith found an open goal awaiting him and could hardly miss. We'd made it so easy for him that I felt Fulham would go on and score more - and maybe they would have done had it not been for a little luck. I say "luck", because not every referee would have sent off the Fulham player who took Wilson down in the 71st minute. But this referee did - and from the resultant free kick Ritchie scored his second. 4-1 against ten men, and now Fulham supporters started to leave in droves. Eddie could afford to make a few substitutions too: Rantie for Wilson, Smith for Pugh. And later: Stanislas for Ritchie, but not before Cook had scored a wonder goal of his own. Central defenders sometimes score from set pieces, often with their head, but this goal - following a 1:2 with our own Smith (two Smiths on the pitch, very confusing) - was more like a striker's goal. Straight into the top corner of the net. And right in front of the away fans too. Also, with only six minutes remaining on the clock surely the perfect moment for him to whip off his shirt off and get booked, so that he'd be back in two weeks when required? But he didn't, and may live to regret that!
Five minutes of added time were announced, and for once it wasn't our fans who despaired. We felt that if we had a bit more time on the pitch we could score a few more, and indeed Stanislas did have a couple of chances in this time, but it wasn't to be. But one can hardly complain about a final score of 5-1 to us, and there were hardly any Fulham supporters left at Craven Cottage by the final whistle! The best match I've seen in a very long time. The Cherries should wear red shorts more often!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):