Date: 18 March 2017
So, the first clean sheet since we last played Swansea (in December), and the first team we’ve done the double over this season, and I was fortunate enough to see BOTH games.
This wasn’t the best I’ve seen Bournemouth play (we’ve played better and lost); and for the first 30 minutes – plus part of the second half – we struggled to dominate the game; so I guess Swansea fans will feel a little hard done by. They’re nice guys too: Swansea has always been a club we said we’d like to emulate, and how can you fail to enjoy their fans’ tuneful renditions of Men Of Harlech and Land Of My Fathers? But this was to be our day and a convincing win (on paper anyway), combined with a climb to eleventh place in the league, means we’ve almost guaranteed a top flight place for a third successive season.
There was only one change in the starting line-up: Arter was injured (isn’t he always when there’s an international call-up due?!) but Surman was back from suspension and therefore took his place. Surman was sadly our weakest link today, not only distributing the ball poorly but being so slow on the ball that he was easy to dispossess, and even once raising his studs far too high in the presence of an opposition player (luckily the referee didn’t notice). So we played with two strikers again, Wilshere having to be content with a place on the bench. As already stated, we didn’t play exceptionally well; once again, our corner kicks (generally short) left a lot to be desired – the only consolation being that Swansea’s were even worse!
Swansea attempted the psychological ploy, having won the toss, of making the teams swap ends. This seemed strange, but didn’t seem to faze our lot. Our earliest chance to score came when Fraser shot wide after about ten minutes; but to be honest the first half hour was pretty boring, not to mention nervy, and our goal when it came was against the run of play. (Swansea had gone close to scoring when King almost gave away an own goal; and Sigurdsson had made a couple of shots – one over the bar and the other saved by Boruc though it looked as if it was going wide anyway.) So, on thirty minutes Afobe – who’d not been playing too well up to this point and had missed several sitters – ran with the ball to the edge of the ‘D’ and fired his shot home. Fans instantly started singing his name but – although the goal was at first credited to him over the PA system – it subsequently transpired that the ball had received a deflection off a Swansea player. (I’d like to think it was going in anyway!) Swansea lost some of their momentum for the rest of the half (though they were back in form again by the start of the second) but our only other good scoring chance was a free kick from a central position five minutes before the break. Smith masterfully steered the ball up and over the wall, but unfortunately it was an easy catch for the keeper.
Gosling had our best shot of the early part of the second half – a long, strong shot sadly saved – but it was twenty minutes from the end by the time the second goal went in. Again it was Afobe. Having received the ball from King, from a position on Bournemouth’s right he sent the ball into the left hand corner of the net via the far post. This one really was Afobe’s goal. It was also sufficient to prompt the sponsors to award him Man of the Match, though I don’t think many fans would agree.
There was no striker on the bench (Mousset’s currently injured) but we still managed to employ three substitutes – Wilshere, Gradel and Ibe – as Eddie tried to wind the clock down. Wilshere got one good cross in to King, whose header was saved, but subsequently King was substituted too. Ibe’s first touch of the ball coincided with the referee’s final whistle. 2-0.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (7), Francis (7), S Cook (8), Daniels (7);
Fraser (7), Surman (5), Gosling (7), Pugh (7);
King (7), Afobe (6)
A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels;
Gradel, Surman, Gosling, Ibe;