Date: 21 November 2015
This was an ambitious day out from my point of view; but it went quite smoothly, and I did get to see the Cherries, once again, put everything they had into an excellent team effort.
When I first realised that the decision to go to this match would involve leaving Walton station at 6:37 AM and not getting back till twenty past eleven at night (in the end I blagged my way onto an earlier evening train and got back at twenty past ten!), I wondered if I’d made a dreadful mistake. Especially as I was also at an all-day meeting in London on the Friday – and preaching on the Sunday. I felt my fears were confirmed when the nominated pub in Swansea had no hand pumps, no food, and scarcely any seating or lighting! But the match, unusually, was a highlight of the day rather than a lowlight. And every train ran on time!
We lined up in defence as I’d hoped: with Federici in goal (Boruc hadn’t even made the bench), Francis in his best position at right back, and Cook restored to the centre. But Eddie had stuck with the midfield trio (I’d have dropped Gosling – before the game – but would have been wrong to do so!), with effectively no-one in the ‘number 10’ position. Stanislas, whom I’d have liked to see in that role, was on the left – but moving infield whenever possible to give support to King who was otherwise somewhat isolated up front.
And what a strong start we made! Stanislas passed to King for his first goal in a Cherries’ shirt after just ten minutes. And, despite an immediate counterattack from Swansea (requiring a good save from Federici), within seven more minutes we were 2-0 up! A move involving Daniels, Arter and Ritchie had resulted in a goal from Gosling. Was I about to witness the Cherries’ first away win in the Premier League? That would make the long day out worthwhile!
But, as before, Swansea immediately countered. And our defence just opened up and let them through. They scored and, despite appeals for offside, the goal stood and it was 1-2. And with Swansea now on the ascendancy things looked bleaker. Not long after, Francis gave away a cheap penalty, which Shelvey converted, and a Swansea win looked more than likely. Could we hold out for more than 45 minutes for a well-earned draw?
In fairness, we played better than Swansea in the second half – but our players seemed afraid to shoot when in sight of goal, Gosling in particular, so we couldn’t score the winner. Our best chance came around the hour mark when a Cook cross went all along the goal-line, immediately in front of the visiting fans, but there was no-one in the right place to tap it in. Swansea had arguably a stronger set of substitutes than we did, including Gomis who had been scoring for fun early in the season, and they used them all quite early in the half, but they couldn’t score either. We brought on Smith for Ritchie – and Smith looked very good indeed in this position. Murray for King and MacDonald for Arter made little difference, but it was good for Shaun to get to play at Swansea! And Arter was lucky to survive till the ninetieth minute anyway because of a stamping offence a little earlier that – fortunately for us – the referee had failed to see! The final result, 2-2, was a fair one; neutrals in particular will have found the match entertaining; and both sides showed signs of having recovered from their recent wobbly period.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (6), Cook (7), Distin (6), Daniels (7);
Ritchie (6), Arter (8), Surman (7), Gosling (8), Stanislas (8);