Date: 16 January 2016
The Cherries got their Premier League survival attempt back on track by winning this six-pointer match with a convincing 3-0 scoreline.
As the players came out of the tunnel we discovered that the team that had started on Tuesday had been only lightly tweaked: by replacing the injured Ritchie with Pugh, and by switching Stanislas to an unfamiliar position on the right wing to accommodate him. Stanislas had a relatively quiet game in this position, whilst Smith ran huge distances up and down the right flank on his own. Surman played deeper than the other two central midfielders, in a 4-1-4-1 formation. This all worked well except that for large periods Afobe – despite looking very strong, and becoming instantly popular with the fans – appeared very isolated up front. There didn’t seem to be any plan for Stanislas or Pugh to come forward and support him, so this task fell to Gosling and Arter.
Daniels and Pugh worked their old magic on the left wing for much of this match – each of them helping the other to raise his game – and it was indeed this combination that led to our first goal with fewer than ten minutes on the clock. Pugh crossed from Bournemouth’s left, and both Afobe and Gosling came to meet it – but Gosling won the race and headed the ball into the net. 1-0. We know from past experience that this isn’t enough to win a game; and we nervously held onto this lead for the rest of the half, whilst Norwich dominated. Boruc wasn’t called into action too often; but every time he was, he rose to the challenge brilliantly. But otherwise the most memorable moment in the first half was when Afobe was clear on goal and brought down, just outside the box, by a very high tackle from Rudd – the Norwich goalie. This seemed to deserve a red card, but only a yellow was given, to the annoyance of home fans and of Arter who spent the rest of the half protesting. At least once, it was Surman who pulled Arter away from the referee (why wasn’t this Francis’ job, as captain?) but meanwhile – more significantly – Afobe lay on the ground apparently seriously injured by the heavy knock. Two Boscombe players urged the trainer onto the pitch before the referee had done so, and I think we all feared this would be another case of a record signing getting injured for the rest of the season!
But thankfully Afobe returned to his feet – and indeed went on to play until the 84th minute. Arter continued his protests to the referee right up to half time, and as the players went into the tunnel; and indeed after the break he went on complaining whilst everyone else was waiting to kick off for the second half! The home fans urged him to shut up, but he continued protesting until he was given a deserved yellow card.
Pugh and Afobe had goal scoring opportunities early in the second half. But it would be Daniels who’d score next – from a spot kick – after Pugh was held back by a Norwich player in the penalty area. Charlie took this in the same cool manner that he usually does, thus masking some amazing skill as he fired a shot into the corner of the net and beat the keeper. This goal was scored at the same interval from the start of the second half, as the previous one has been from the start of the first, i.e. nine minutes. Over the next twenty minutes Norwich made three substitutions, and we made none, but it would be the Cherries who would score the final goal. On 75 minutes Daniels beat two Norwich players to put in a perfect low cross to the exact spot where Afobe had indicated he wanted it, and Afobe scored his first goal for the Cherries! It meant that Daniels had played some part in all three goals today.
Arter was taken off before he could get a second yellow card; and O’Kane (whose distribution, sadly, was as bad as ever today) replaced him. Murray came on for Afobe on 84 minutes; and deep into stoppage time Kermorgant – whose name had been chanted every time he warmed up this afternoon – came on for Gosling. The impression was that this was Jann’s swansong, his name having been linked with Reading all week (and of course Charlton would like him back too). After the final whistle it continued to be Kermorgant’s name that resounded around the stands, but surely the most significant fact was that we’d beaten our closest rivals in the relegation battle, 3-0!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Smith (8), Francis (7), Cook (7), Daniels (9);
Stanislas (7), Gosling (8), Arter (7), Pugh (8);