Date: 6 May 2017
This was not the most exciting match ever seen! But the result was a fair reflection of the game; and it was good to see Bournemouth come back from a deficit twice over.
As far as the team line-up was concerned, Stanislas started the game. But he wasn’t replacing the injured Afobe, as everyone had expected: he was replacing Fraser (for no obvious reason) while Mousset was getting his first start up-front so that we could stick with our 4-4-2 system. The stand-out players, in an otherwise dull start to the game, were the ‘two Cooks’. Steve made himself useful with goal clearances (at least two in the first half), whilst Lewis was very keen to be involved in everything going, and most Cherries’ attacks came through him. Our biggest goal scoring chance came in the 22nd minute when Smith hit the woodwork (Bournemouth must hold the record for the team that hits woodwork most often!) and Mousset, despite facing an empty goal, unfortunately failed to score from the rebound. The next notable incident though came a few minutes later when Arter felled Joe Allen with a harsh tackle; inevitably away fans called for a red card and home fans for a let-off! The referee compromised with a yellow, but Arter was booed by Stoke supporters for the rest of the half, until they got bored with doing so.
The only goal of the half came just after the 30-minute mark, when Stoke won a corner and a goal-bound header from Cameron was unintentionally helped on its way into the net by Mousset. Half time: 0-1.
The second half didn’t immediately look like producing a consolation for Bournemouth until just after the hour mark when Lewis Cook found Smith on our right, and his cross was dummied by King to allow a fast-running Stanislas to score. But within about ten minutes we were behind again. A cross from Stoke’s right, in front of the Ted MacDougall Stand, only required a simple tap into Boruc’s goal – because for some reason Boruc and Smith were both on the floor at the time! (As, if memory serves, were one or two Stoke players as well.) Our final goal would in many ways follow a similar pattern to our first: with Lewis Cook passing to Smith. (What a game Smith was having: covering the whole right flank on his own, doing the job that two men – Daniels and Pugh – were sharing between them on the other wing. No wonder he was the sponsors’ ‘man of the match’.) This time substitute Gradel met Smith’s cross and attempted a shot that would have gone wide had not King got a touch to it. We cheered like mad the fact that King had got himself onto the scoresheet for the umpteenth game in a row, before hearing the news that actually this had been another own goal: off Shawcross!
And that was it: 2-2. But, satisfyingly, it meant that at 5 o’clock we were in the top half of the Premier League table, mathematically safe from relegation, and two places above Southampton to boot!
My homeward journey was a long one: requiring me to go to Central Station for the fastest connection but even then finding that a series of delays on my first train, and cancellation of my second, resulted in me not getting home before 9 PM. I’d have been an estimated hour and a half earlier if I’d taken my car. Oh well, next time there are engineering works hopefully I’ll learn from today’s experience!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (8), Francis (7), S Cook (8), Daniels (5);
Stanislas (6), L Cook (8), Arter (7), Pugh (6);
King (7), Mousset (6)
A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels;
Ibe, L Cook, Arter, Gradel;