Date: 7 April 2018
Today’s match day programme showed that Bournemouth had already picked up a record 17 points from losing positions in games this season. Well we were about to see them make that 18!
So we gathered on an afternoon that was a lot warmer and sunnier than forecast. (But so wealthy a club are we these days, that we could still afford to have all the floodlights on, achieving nothing at all!) Stanislas is out for the season and Ibe is ill, but fortunately Francis is available again – so Fraser was able to take up one of the wide berths with Pugh on the other side. Many supporters had thought that Defoe should start instead of Wilson, but Eddie surprised us by picking both of them – playing side by side rather than one behind the other – and leaving out King. The only other surprise was that Taylor had been given a place on the bench and Arter hadn’t.
Bournemouth’s first golden chance to go ahead in the game came within the first minute, as a brilliant diagonal pass from Daniels found an out-of-form Wilson who was through on goal but still managed to miss. Just as people were remarking that Defoe wouldn’t have missed that one, we were all proved wrong as a Francis pass found Defoe and he mishit his shot! Would we go on to rue those early missed chances? Well Palace certainly started to come into the game more now, but the next moment of note was when Lewis Cook and Palace’s Zaha got themselves into a tangle on the floor in front of the main stand. It seemed unintentional at first, as though both were just genuinely trying to untangle themselves, but when Zaha finally stood up Lewis kept a lock on his legs so he was unable to move. Tempers then flared, other players rushed in, Francis intervened and tried to calm things, and the referee ultimately decided (luckily for Cook) that it was ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’ and booked no-one.
This outcome didn’t prevent Cherries’ fans booing Zaha and Palace supporters booing Lewis Cook for the rest of the half – or at least until they could think of something more interesting to sing. When Boscombe were awarded a throw-in right in front of the away stand, long-throw specialist Steve Cook went over to take it and was greeted by cat-calls of “Brighton reject!” It has to be said that yet again this afternoon the visiting fans at Dean Court out-sang the home fans for the entirety of the match.
So the half time score was 0-0, but the most common time for the Cherries to concede this season has been in the first ten minutes of the second half. What would Eddie say or do to prevent a recurrence of this? Nothing, evidently! Two minutes from the restart, as fans were still returning to their seats, we tried to defend a Palace free kick with a wall of five but (as with Mahrez at Leicester) this was insufficient to keep Milivojevic out. 0-1. Surely the comeback specialists couldn’t come back again, could we? Begovic was working miracles in the Bournemouth goal, keeping everything out – including times when a Palace striker was one-on-one with him – otherwise we’d have been further behind. Well, on the hour mark Eddie made a double substitution: Mousset for Wilson, and King for Pugh, both straight swaps with the other nine playing as before. Mousset had only been on the pitch four minutes when a Fraser pass found him and he smashed the ball into the net. Game on! We tried to double our lead but Zaha – of all people – got lucky on 75 minutes when his shot got a lucky deflection, so we had it all to do again.
Our last substitution, ten minutes before the end, was another straight swap: Surman for Lewis Cook. A sensible move, because arguably Lewis’s worst two games in Bournemouth colours have been the two since his infamous England cap. And 89 minutes showed on the clock when Bournemouth won a corner at the North Stand end and – via Steve Cook’s back – the ball found King at the far post and he made the score 2-2. Both our goals had been scored by substitutes. Could we still go on to win this? There was some confusion about the length of time to be added on: the announcer said four minutes and the scoreboard said three! Whichever it was meant to be, there was no doubt, more than four minutes later, that a Bournemouth free kick in front of Palace’s goal was almost certainly going to be the last kick of the game. Bournemouth players – including Begovic – were keen to go forward , but Eddie urged restraint: sending half of them back into defence, just in case. The free kick was taken, nothing came of it, and the final whistle blew.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (7), S Cook (8), Ake (7), Daniels (7);
Fraser (8), L Cook (6), Gosling (6), Pugh (8);
Wilson (5), Defoe (7)