Date: 6 January 2018
For the second time in a week I saw Boscombe come from behind to draw 2-2.
Being a cup game, everything was a little different from usual: tickets only £10, programmes only £2 (though much thinner than normal), and everyone in a different seat. Two of us sat in the East Stand wondering where all our friends were. (It turned out that several of them were in the Directors’ Box, but that’s another story!) And finally, of course, the team was changed too – but actually it was a good mix of experienced players and those second-tier players we’ve always wanted to see more of. But Bournemouth fans were still nervous; a game against the League One high-scoring high-flyers had “banana skin” written all over it!
Clearly Wigan fans were of the same opinion. They sang their hearts out for the first half – taunting us with “Is this a library?” and “Premier League you’re having a laugh” and getting no audible response from home fans at all. A very early goal from Grigg (thanks chiefly to some appalling defending, especially from Brad Smith), and a later rather more 'lucky' goal from a free kick apparently deflected off Hyndman, put Wigan 2-0 up and simply served to increase the gap between the two sets of supporters’ moods.
Half time gave us chance to reflect on what was going so wrong. It was Brad Smith’s first game back from injury, so he probably wasn’t match fit, but did that really excuse all his backward passing a la Andrew Surman? At least Surman’s backward passes usually found their target, but Smith’s didn’t. And the worst performance of the half was unquestionably Afobe’s; he did absolutely nothing except once block a shot from Mousset! And he would continue to do nothing until substituted on 70 minutes. Hyndman and Mahoney were both players I was watching for the first time, and I thought they were fitting in well: Mahoney quite busy on the right wing and Hyndman popping up where needed all over the pitch. Hyndman’s ‘own goal’, if indeed it was an own goal, was particularly unfortunate because he would otherwise have been congratulated for helping out in defence in the first place.
Mousset was surely the hardest working Cherries player in the first half, and he never stopped trying. He really deserved a goal for all that effort, and indeed within ten minutes of the restart he’d got one, latching on to a cross from Ibe on the right and driving the ball into the top corner of the net. Ibe was one of two players brought on at half time to sort things out, and he had a very good second half; Pugh was brought in on the opposite wing but was a lot less convincing. That Brad Smith needed to be substituted was inevitable; I felt a bit sorry for Mahoney for being substituted but this occasion really needed Ibe’s pace and experience. The oddest switch was that Fraser now moved from left midfield to right full back: the exact opposite of the switch Adam Smith had made in the previous match I’d attended! The time around Mousset’s goal was the purple patch for the Cherries, and we were increasingly dominating the game – the way we do when we’re trying to catch up. Our supporters were more vocal now, too, while the Wigan fans had gone quiet. But as the end of the match approached we were still 1-2 down, and Cherries’ fans were leaving in large numbers – meaning that many of them would miss the equaliser. Pugh put in a shot/cross from the left that looked as though it might have gone straight in. (All four goals in the match were in front of the North Stand, so – with us being nearer the south end – we didn’t have the best of views.) It turned out that it had actually been a header off Steve Cook, well into added time and with hardly any time left on the clock at all. But we still used the remaining seconds to try and win the match and avoid a replay. And if Fraser’s shot at the very end hadn’t hit the post, this would have been a memorable reversal – with the ‘winner’ scored by a right back too! But we had to be content with 2-2, and do it all again.
There was one familiar face amongst the travelling contingent – Shaun MacDonald – though he’s been side-lined with an injury and played no part in this match. But it was a nice touch when he came onto the pitch after the final whistle and circulated around the stadium to genuine cheers from the Cherries’ faithful, who’d not previously had a proper opportunity to say goodbye and thanks to him.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (6), S Cook (7), Ake (7), B Smith (5);
Mahoney (7), Hyndman (7), Surman (5), Fraser (7);
Mousset (8), Afobe (4)
Fraser, S Cook, Ake, A Smith;
Ibe, Hyndman, Surman, Pugh;