Date: 30 September 2017
This would have counted as a good day out were it not for the frustration of seeing no goals. And for once the pundits, who’d almost all called this match as a draw, were right in their predictions!
Arriving at the ground at about 1 (to pick up my ticket), I found no queue at the ticket office at all. And a friendly clerk called “Pedro” instantly located my ticket (in a sealed envelope with my name on it) – a massive improvement on my previous visit. Returning an hour later I found none of the threatened queues to get into the ground either, with security checks being run very efficiently, and a barcode reader that accepted my ticket first time. But things continued to get better: where was the forecast cold, wet weather? It was very warm indeed in the sun. (“Why did I wear layers?” asked a fellow Exile. She found out by the end of the game!) And then the team was announced and at last what the fans had been demanding for weeks was actually happening: Lewis Cook was starting a match!
So far so good. And the match did indeed start very positively from a Bournemouth point of view. King had passed to Defoe, whose shot hit the bar; and not long afterwards Defoe passed to Pugh, whose shot towards an empty goal went wide when it would have been easier to score; all in the first five minutes or so. It seemed only a matter of time before someone would score. Little did we know that this was to be the pattern of the entire match, with some excellent play at times – in defence and on the right wing – but Defoe, King and especially Pugh missing the target every time.
In the end Pugh would miss three sitters in this game. He also committed an appalling foul on Albrighton 20 minutes into the game, for which he was justifiably yellow-carded. (Some fans were unhappy that previous fouls by Leicester players had gone unpunished, but in fairness to the referee this one was right in front of us and was certainly deserved. Maybe Pugh’s frustration at missing the target more than once was having an effect on him.) And Pugh wasn’t the only player failing to live up to expectations: Lewis Cook was doing that ‘Surman thing’ of passing backwards all the time – ironically in a game in which Surman wasn’t doing it so often! Cook did improve in the second half, worked well with Ibe and made a brilliant pass to Defoe late on, but he never did enough to justify being named the sponsors’ man of the match, in my humble opinion.
With King and Defoe consistently failing to find the net, late in the first half Daniels attempted a shot from distance. (He had people he could pass to, but clearly didn’t trust any of them by now!) The home crowd got more and more frustrated, and the Leicester fans started to out-sing the home ones, even though their section of the ground wasn’t full. The second half started much like the first one had ended. The inevitable substitution of Ibe for Pugh (Stanislas moving over to the left flank to accommodate him) helped a little – but still it was all about opportunities rather than goals. Credit though to our defenders for keeping Vardy out – especially Francis whom I’ve not rated of late but today had one of his best games ever, putting in some amazing tackles (getting the ball rather than the man every time) as well as winning everything in the air.
The substitution of Afobe for Defoe seven minutes from time didn’t go down well with the home fans, but to be honest he was as likely to score as anyone else – and, like Ibe, he certainly showed good attitude. The final substitution – Fraser for Stanislas – was however too late to have any effect. Surman had a shot that was saved. The closing stages of the match were tense, everyone fearing a late Leicester goal – and indeed Vardy had his best shot of the game very late on, but fortunately it went wide. The four minutes of added time were never going to bring about a Cherries’ goal so we were relieved to hear the final whistle. A clean sheet is good; any win any time will move us several places up the table so there’s no reason to despair yet; but we really do need to work on our finishing!
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 (9), Ake (8), Daniels (7);
Stanislas (7), L Cook (7), Surman (8), Pugh (5);
King (6), Defoe (6)