Date: 3 February 2018
So the trend continues. At games I’ve attended this season the Cherries’ form is now LLLDDW away from home and LDDDW in King’s Park.
Before this match the general attitude was a pessimistic “This won’t be a repeat of Wednesday. It will be a tough game.” Well Eddie chose the same starting 11 that had won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge, and the exact same bench too, none of which was the least bit surprising. As we kicked off a very noticeable factor was that Stoke’s fans are the loudest I’ve ever heard. In the event, they sang their hearts out for 90 minutes, even when their team was losing. Their taunts of “Is this a library?” were justified; Cherries’ fans were very quiet today, even when winning. The away fans’ chants about having a garden shed bigger than our stadium were less justifiable – but amusing nonetheless!
Meanwhile, where it matters – on the pitch – the situation was little better. Stoke started very brightly, and it quickly became clear that they were going to play rough: tackling our players left, right and centre. It was impossible to tell whether this is something Paul Lambert encourages, or simply a Stoke tradition he inherited. More significantly, Shaqiri got a shot in within three minutes or so of kick-off, that was cleared off the line by Steve Cook. And within another couple of minutes he’d been more successful with a header; we were now 0-1 down. And from here on, the first half just went from bad to worse. Steve Cook, having done the important job of ensuring we were only 0-1 down not 0-2 within the first five minutes, shortly went off with a hamstring injury. Simpson was the obvious replacement except that we were already losing: so Eddie decided to change things. King came on to join Wilson up front, while Fraser and Daniels switched from wing-back to full-back. The rest of the first half was unremarkable but at least the score line got no worse.
The second half began much like the first, and it’s not unusual to see substitutions being made from the 60th minute. But, despite having had one enforced change already, Eddie made his second before the hour mark. Mousset came on for Stanislas; King moving to the left wing. As has been observed on previous occasions, this unsettled our team. Whilst they were still finding their feet in their new roles, they almost gave away a second goal as a Peter Crouch header hit the crossbar.
But from here on we slowly improved, and on 70 minutes our first substitute, King, scored with a curling angled shot from the left wing. It was somewhat ironic that he’d scored after being moved away from an out-and-out striker’s role. And ten minutes later, we were 2-1 up when our second substitute scored. But the impressive thing about this was the manner in which it was achieved. Ibe was lining up to take a free kick in a promising position on Bournemouth’s right, and Daniels ran over to him and whispered in his ear. Daniels then ran up to the ball as though to kick it, but stepped over it and ran into an unmarked area. The Stoke players all watched him and clearly expected Ibe to pass to him; but Ibe sent the ball into the penalty area where Mousset was able to run onto it and head it home. Wonderful!
The sponsors promptly named Mousset as ‘man of the match’. Well he had scored the winning goal, though mainly through brilliance displayed elsewhere. It was also his first ever Premier League goal, but as I’d seen him score in the FA Cup (and made him my ‘man of the match’ then) I hadn’t realised he’d never scored in the league. Yet I still didn’t feel he’d been on the pitch long enough to deserve the award this time, which I’d give to Lewis Cook: not because it happened to be his 21st birthday, but because he just gets better with every game he plays and must surely be the first name on the team sheet these days? When four minutes were added to the end of the game we relished that, as we were totally dominant by now. Eddie repeated his tactic of Wednesday: bringing on his third substitute with 92 minutes on the clock. And it was Pugh; so the same three substitutes were employed in both of the week’s games. Then with virtually the last kick of the game, Wilson got a shot on target. It was saved by the Stoke keeper, so we had to be content with 2-1 – but a very pleasing result given that we’d come from behind.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Fraser (7), Francis (6), S Cook (7), Ake (8), Daniels (6);
Ibe (6), L Cook (8), Gosling (7), Stanislas (7);
Fraser, Francis, Ake, Daniels;
King, L Cook, Gosling, Pugh;