Date: 21 May 2017
This was the same score as the last time I saw us play Leicester (at home in August 2015), but how much more significant was it now! 1-1 means that we’ve ended the season at ninth place in the Premier League (only the big two Manchester teams, the big two Liverpool teams, the big two North London teams, and Chelsea, are ahead of us on points – albeit by 15+) and two points above the previous reigning champions!
It was a big shock when the teams were announced at 2 PM. We’d thought Eddie was going to take this game seriously and here he was evidently resting Boruc, Arter and King, arguably our three most important players. But it turned out that these were genuine injuries and we were in fact putting out our strongest available team – which included Gosling and Surman both returning from injuries! Development players Surridge and Worthington were on the bench (the latter most of us hadn’t heard of, and I had to look in the previous home programme to find out who he was). This was a new stadium to me; and very impressive too, though the free beers and match day programmes offered to home fans meant there were no programmes available for away fans at all!
The most obvious weakness in our changed team was the presence of our third choice goalie, but in fact Rocky made some good saves and the only obvious sign of his inexperience was the number of his goal kicks that went into touch. Anyway, the intended plan for protecting him was obviously to play an attacking game – Mousset in the ‘number 9’ role and Fraser as the ‘number 10’ – and this came off within a minute of kick-off. Mousset passed to Fraser who received a blow from a Leicester defender, but the referee waved the game on and Stanislas ran in from Bournemouth’s right to score. Amazing scenes of celebration in the away end, where many were already armed with balloons and other inflatables. Poor Leicester defending had got us 1-0 up, and would help us stay on top of the game for most of the first half, although the best shot (from Gosling on 24 minutes) was brilliantly saved by the Leicester keeper. We were also 8th in the ‘as it stands’ league table and, even though we were enjoying the match, it would have been nice to end in that position – above Southampton!
The second half was very different though, right from the start. Leicester came out early, and ready for a fight! They attacked our goal ceaselessly for five minutes and then Vardy got a relatively easy goal when all he had to do was slide the ball over the line. 1-1. Our central midfielders were both tiring but there were no obvious replacements on the bench, so Eddie brought on Afobe and Ibe for Mousset and Pugh. Leicester remained on top, however, and Vardy got the ball into the net for a second time though it was ruled offside. The last twenty minutes were very nervy from Bournemouth’s point of view, and I lost count how many corner kicks Leicester were awarded.
Fraser took a knock and needed substituting. We wondered which youth player would get the chance – Surridge or Worthington – and it turned out to be the latter. For a short while his positioning seemed a little suspect, but he soon settled into an advanced midfield position not dissimilar to where Fraser had been playing, managed some nice touches and helped keep the score at 1-1.
I think, given the pressure we’d been under for the second half, it got to the point where we were all happy to accept 1-1. But it so happened that we’d have one more chance to better this: near the end, Stanislas and Ibe swapped wings, and Stanislas passed a beautiful ball to Ibe who was running in from the left and through on goal. I suppose Ibe should be given some credit for reading the ball so well and getting into the perfect position, but he fluffed his lines and the ball rolled into the goalie’s grateful hands. This isn’t the first time Ibe has missed a ‘sitter’ and probably won’t be his last, but it did mean that the game ended with us reflecting on what might have been. 1-1 was, though, as much as we deserved, and the players came to our corner to thank us for our support. Several threw shirts into the crowd and then they – and we – left before the Leicester team came back out for their promised end-of-season lap-of-honour.
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 (6), Daniels (7);
Stanislas (7), Surman (6), Gosling (8), Pugh (7);
A Smith, Francis, S Cook, Daniels;
Ibe, Surman, Gosling, Stanislas;