Date: 26 December 2017
So the match that had been trumpeted as a six-pointer turned out to be a six-goaler. But it will be remembered more for some controversial refereeing decisions; and for the most torrential of rain during the long, dark journey home (by car, of course, there being no trains today).
The team selection looked good whilst I was imagining Francis, Steve Cook and Ake as centre backs with Smith and Fraser as right and left wing backs respectively – as at Chelsea last week. But that wasn’t it. It was 4-4-2, with Smith as fourth choice of left back because Daniels and Brad Smith are injured and Wiggins is evidently out of favour. I usually take the “Eddie knows best” line, but I wasn’t convinced by this. Smith looked out of sorts in this role, and any partnership between him and Fraser on the left flank wouldn’t even start to become evident until the game was nearing its end.
An early scoring opportunity fell to Francis, at the South Stand end, but his shot landed on the roof of the net. The first goal was therefore scored by West Ham’s Collins, the easiest of headers off a corner on seven minutes. We’d failed to defend a set piece yet again. But we were having more of the game; Fraser was very active even though he kept either slipping (the conditions were treacherous) or being brought down by opponents. And on the quarter hour mark a perfect pass from Wilson found an unmarked King who really should have scored; but he’s not match fit and later, during the second half, he’d have to be substituted. Fortunately, on 29 minutes, a loose ball reached Gosling who scored his second goal this month and, though it hadn’t been the greatest of goals, ran to the crowd as though he’d scored the winner in a cup final. It’s good to see such enthusiasm, and at least it meant that supporters in the North Stand were left in no doubt who’d scored as Dan led the celebrations! But Gosling doesn’t have his own song, so the stadium erupted in a chorus of We’ll Keep The Red Flag Flying High – away supporters responding with their own chorus telling us where we could stick said flag! But there was one more significant incident to come before half time: Francis caught a West Ham player with a high foot. West Ham fans (inevitably) called for a red card but David Moyes – who’d seen the incident unfold right in front of him – graciously conceded later in the day that a red would have been unfair as the outcome was clearly unintentional. Francis was given a yellow card; the away supporters bellowed out their opinion by first singing “You’re not fit to referee” and then upgrading it to “C*nt with a whistle, you’re just a c*nt with a whistle” – a song they subsequently sang to the referee every time he approached their stand. This almost certainly breaks the “no offensive language will be tolerated” rule – but how do you evict an entire stand?
Early in the second half, the referee blew his whistle for a foul on Gosling but we had the ball at the time and it would have been better to have played the advantage. Which all goes to show that not every refereeing error today benefited us! Twelve minutes in, following a corner, a Lewis Cook cross through a crowded area found Ake, whose shot put Bournemouth ahead. And 2-1 remained the score until nine minutes before the end despite both teams bringing on their number 9’s (Afobe and Carroll respectively). And then a disaster: Begovic, who minutes earlier had made a world-class save low to his left from an Andy Carroll shot, now appeared to make a much easier save but somehow stumbled to the ground and dropped the ball into the path of Arnautovic – who couldn’t miss from there. And six minutes later Arnautovic would be on the scoresheet again following a quick break by West Ham after a run of activity around their own goalmouth. We’d earlier turned West Ham’s 1-0 lead into 2-1 to us; but now it was 3-2 to them again. Neutrals must have been loving this; Hammers’ fans certainly were; while our own supporters began to leave in droves. (Those in the front few rows of the East Stand who’d got absolutely drenched during the course of the match had double reason to head home and dry off.)
There’d been a lengthy stop for an injury to Steve Cook during the second half (from which he’d thankfully recovered despite Simpson warming up hopefully on the touchline!), so six minutes was added at the end. We didn’t really want it; we were dejected now and West Ham seemed more likely to score. But score we apparently did: from an Ake header. It was hard to see the detail but the referee gave the goal, there was much excitement amongst those fans who hadn’t already left, and I almost got pushed onto the ground in all the shoving that was taking place in the East Stand. Then it became evident that the linesman had flagged, and the referee had ruled the goal out; possibly because it had gone in off Wilson’s arm. And then, after a lengthy debate, he changed his mind again and allowed the goal. 3:3. Away fans were incensed. And Moyes was rather less gracious about this decision in his post-match interview; the referee apparently informed him that linesmen’s flags are only advisory!
So we got one measly point in the end, and very nearly got none. It’s not really good enough, as this is the sort of match we should be winning – especially given our performance for much of the second half. And we remain in the relegation zone of the Premier League, with more and more supporters considering relegation a very real possibility. The sponsors’ Man of the Match was Gosling, who certainly had a good game – as did my Man of the Match from last week, Fraser – but this time I’m giving it to Ake.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (6), S Cook (7), Ake (8), A Smith (6);
Ibe (6), L Cook (7), Gosling (7), Fraser (7);
Wilson (7), King (6)