Date: 1 November 2015
A game of two halves (to cite an old cliché), but to be honest I’m more concerned about the half we played well than about the half we played badly.
Over 3000 Cherries’ fans turned up (there was a time when we didn’t have that many fans for home matches!), a little concerned about recent results but relieved to see Cook and – especially – Boruc not playing! Our team were in their popular blue strip (as worn at Charlton at the end of last season). Francis had been moved from right back (from which he was sorely missed) but played well in the centre. Smith was less convincing at right back, not getting forward much until the second half. Arter returned to central midfield for his first ever Premier League game, but neither Gosling nor Surman was displaced; instead, all three played – with Murray all on his own (and pretty ineffectual) up front. Daniels and Pugh showed some of their old tricks on the left, but their crosses weren’t met by anyone. Smith and Ritchie failed to gel on the right. Federici was guilty of failing to catch the ball sometimes, opting to deflect the ball straight back out, but he did make some good saves and looked a lot ‘safer’ than Boruc.
So, on paper not a bad line-up. But throughout the first half Boscombe were unfortunately totally outclassed by some excellent Southampton team play. Like the recent Spurs game, it was men versus boys again. Southampton dominated possession and were better at passing. We never really got going. And Southampton scored twice within five minutes just after the half hour mark: Bertrand crossing to Davis who slammed the ball into the net from close range for the first, and then a subsequent cross to Pelle who headed home for the second. Distin was to blame for both strikers getting their shots in, and Smith was to blame for the crosses which both came from Southampton’s left / our right. Our best (only?) chance of a goal in that half came during time added on, when Gosling nodded wide. 2-0 at half time, thoroughly deserved, and the prospect of a final score of 5-0 or thereabouts.
But Eddie made a double substitution in advance of the second half, bringing on Stanislas and King (in place of Pugh and Murray) for their pace. But also, every player on our side now upped their game – though whether it was the two substitutions or Eddie’s words that had made the difference we'll never know. From now on we dominated the match, demonstrated a lot of pace, and got in some good passes. We did this throughout the second half but (and here’s the rub) failed to get a single goal out of it (even when, resulting from a double-yellow booking, Saints were reduced to ten men). I’d rather think that we’re out of our league (as in the first half), than acknowledge that we can dominate a game so much and score nothing. King and Tomlin (the latter brought on for Arter who’d played brilliantly but still isn’t match-fit) both had shots on target late in the game, but with the extent of our dominance there should have been a lot more chances than that. And all our players seemed scared to shoot when they did have sight of goal. The game ended at 2-0 at which point Smith, inexplicably, threw his shirt into the crowd.
Stanislas had initially played on the left in Pugh’s place, but after the final substitution he moved into the ‘number 10’ role (where he’d begun against Liverpool on Wednesday) and looked very good there. Eddie will have to decide whether to start him, Murray, Gosling, etc., for the next match – which is a ‘must win’ at home to Newcastle at a time when Cherries’ victories seem elusive.
Apart from the match itself it was a great day. I managed to fit in both a 10 AM church service at Walton (All Saints’ Day, coincidentally!) and a 4 PM match at Southampton. The train transfers at Woking and Southampton Airport Parkway both worked out perfectly – despite arriving at each station slightly late. The walk from St Denys to the stadium was delightful, and I managed to get back to Central Station in time for the 6:25 PM train after the match – though only just! (Arriving on platform 1 at the same moment as my train pulled in!) And the stadium banter was great (the predictable “Where were you when you were sh*t?”, “2-0 in your cup-final!”, etc. from Saints’ fans – but “There’s only one Harry Redknapp” in response). Just a shame about the result.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Smith (5), Francis (8), Distin (5), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (7), Arter (8), Surman (7), Gosling (7), Pugh (6);
Smith, Francis, Distin, Daniels;
Ritchie, Gosling, Surman, Tomlin;