Date: 8 August 2015
This day was never going to be remembered mainly for the result, because it was our first ever match at the top flight of English football. So, whatever happened it would go down in history. But a win – or even one Cherries’ goal – would have been nice!
After the huge difficulties obtaining a ticket, the day itself began well. It was beautiful sunny weather, and I arrived to find the stadium looking wonderful, with all the advertising boards and new sponsors’ names already in place. The pitch side hoardings were of the moving variety (like you see on the TV!) and the pitch itself, despite having been dug up during the summer, looked immaculate. The stadium was full quite early, everyone having arrived in good time to savour the atmosphere. There was some great banter between the two sets of supporters, especially in my corner where the South Stand meets the East; and I just had time to glance at the historic match-day programme, and spot my photo (as part of the BBC Fans’ Choir) on page 74, before flares went off and to a standing ovation the winners of last year’s Championship emerged onto the pitch.
Eddie had selected, as far as possible, the team that played on the last day of last season. Only the injured Arter (who missed the match entirely) and Kermorgant (who came on for the second half) missed out on a starting berth. And from the off, the match was played at a very fast pace. Bournemouth more than held their own throughout the first half, with Ritchie involved in almost everything that happened (diagonal balls from Daniels kept finding him in space) and Wilson working his socks off to be in a good shooting position again and again. Everyone seemed a little nervous of the final ball (and the possibility of becoming the first Cherries’ player ever to score in the Premier League) but, apart from that, Bournemouth dominated much of the half and Boruc had virtually nothing to do. Our weakest player was Gosling (taking Arter’s place), who kept losing possession and whose distribution was poor. Meanwhile King (taking Kermorgant’s place) had a very quiet half.
Our best scoring chances, though, came in the last quarter-hour of the half. Surman had a shot on goal, and Gosling had an even better chance but managed to shoot over the bar, before on the stroke of half time Pugh shot straight into the Villa keeper’s hands.
So, 0-0 at half-time; but when the teams returned it was Villa who’d decided to up their game. Howe soon substituted Kermorgant for King, which looked better as crosses into the box had been getting wasted. The next substitution, on 68 minutes, was Gradel for Pugh, and despite being away for about eight years Gradel got an amazing reception from the crowd. He responded with some quick work on the left wing and a shot that very nearly reached Kermorgant. Surely now, with these two substitutions, we could do something?
But no; only a couple of minutes after Gradel’s appearance Villa had scored a surprisingly ‘old fashioned’ goal on this day of clever, ‘pretty’, football. They won a corner, that was met by Gestede’s head – and, thanks to naïve defending, that was that! The 0-1 score would see them out. Gosling got a booking that several fans thought was his second but couldn’t have been as he stayed on the pitch. But maybe Howe had miscounted too, because he fairly quickly brought Gosling off for O’Kane. There were five minutes of added time at the end, but we’d have to wait to another day for a chance to see Bournemouth win a point – or even score a goal – in the top flight. No doubt that day will come.
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), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (8), Surman (7), Gosling (5), Pugh (7);