Date: 20 January 2018
A point away from home would have been most welcome today if it weren’t for the immature way in which our players ‘switched off’ to concede the equaliser.
The day started promisingly enough with some excellent beer and a generously portioned (yet cheaply priced) five bean chili in the Exiles’ nominated pub. Discussions in the pub revolved around the fact that I’d seen eight previous Cherries’ matches this season and their form was LDDD at home and LLLD away from home. Some considered it a bad omen that I hadn’t yet seen a Cherries’ win (except on TV), but I preferred to concentrate on the fact that I’d never witnessed a result that was worse than the preceding one, so today’s result had to be a draw or a victory!
The team reverted to last Sunday’s line-up, and no-one could argue with that. Stanislas and King were both back in the squad and would no doubt come on as substitutes at some point, while there was no room on the bench for Afobe, Arter or Pugh. Again no-one would argue with that, though many of us had never heard of Taylor who was the seventh named substitute.
West Ham were the brighter team from the start – a shot from Noble landing on the top of the net within ten minutes (many home fans thinking he’d scored). Begovic kept us in the game in the first half; in particular with a couple of world-class saves from Arnautovic, who’d looked so good against us on Boxing Day. (Speaking of Boxing Day, Callum Wilson was booed every time he got the ball today. If anything, this improved his game; it certainly didn’t seem to faze him!) At the other end our best chance was from a second corner in quick succession, which was taken short – Fraser and Daniels doing a well-rehearsed double-act straight off the training ground – before being passed to Lewis Cook on the edge of the area. His shot went narrowly wide, which was a great shame as it would have been a very clever goal if it had gone in.
The first half then deteriorated, at least for the fans, as the play got boring and the stadium got colder and colder. Only a small section of the stadium roof was open, over the centre of the pitch, yet still the rain was managing to drift up to the high seats in the stand where we were situated. Half time offered a chance to warm up a bit, and then the team returned to the pitch. But only our team, the home team waiting for the appropriate fanfare and rendition of ‘Blowing Bubbles’ before they made their entrance. The psychology worked, though, and for the next ten minutes West Ham totally dominated the game. This was unquestionably their purple patch, and we were lucky to survive it with the score still at 0-0. As soon as he could after the hour mark, Eddie made the obviously intended substitution of Stanislas for Ibe. This wasn’t tactical (he took up the exact same position on the right flank) but it was nonetheless an improvement. West Ham responded by bringing on Hernandez, and who’d have thought these two substitutes would end up being responsible for the two goals? But that was what occurred: firstly a Stanislas pass finding Fraser on Bournemouth’s left on 72 minutes, with Fraser striking the ball into the net. Cue great celebrations from the away fans, looking to the screen for a replay. But this turned out to be the first (and only) incident of the entire game that wasn’t replayed! The screen remained stubbornly black. The team celebrated too much, as though they’d never scored in the Premier League before, and were clearly not concentrating on the game when via route one Hernandez scored straight from the restart. We’ve seen this happen before; it was unforgivable that it should occur again and Eddie needs to tell the players so. The official statistics may show the goals as being two minutes apart, but most of that was celebration time not playing time.
The other no doubt planned substitution, King for Fraser, occurred at the first opportunity after the 80th minute. It enabled the goal scorer to get an ovation, but it also gave King the chance to put in a claim for a starting place in ten days’ time at Chelsea. (Again he was played in the exact same role as the player he was replacing: wide left.) He was involved from the moment he came on, and looked fit. For the rest of the game the only team that looked likely to score again was Bournemouth. We welcomed the five added minutes at the end, as we really did look to be on the verge of scoring. Twice we won throw-ins in promising areas, both of which Steve Cook of course took. But it wasn’t to be, and the game ended 1-1. All that was left was the long trudge back to Stratford station, that irritatingly takes you right round the station to enter at the far side. At one point the entire 50,000 crowd has to walk single file along a pavement by a very busy road filled with moving traffic. And when you get to the far side of the station only one gate is in use for everyone to put their ticket in. The first time we visited this stadium, in August 2016, it was West Ham’s first home game there and the lack of infrastructure linking the ground to the station could be excused; but the fact that no improvements have been made since then reflects very badly on the local council. Despite leaving promptly at the end of the game, it was nearly an hour before I was on a moving train.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (6), Francis (6), S Cook (6), Ake (8), Daniels (5);
Ibe (6), L Cook (6), Gosling (6), Fraser (7);