Date: 15 September 2018
This time last year I saw these teams play out a dull goalless draw at Dean Court. Today’s match couldn’t have been more different.
The threatened queues to enter the stadium were non-existent; the promised full and thorough bag search turned out to be no more than a cursory glance; and the supposedly complicated new turnstile machines let me in instantly with no hesitation. Inside, the day felt surprisingly warm for mid-September and the atmosphere was good even though – at least in the area where I was sitting – the free cardboard clappers remained in the gaps between the seats, unused, and were still there on ninety minutes.
We always seem to play poorly in the first match after an international break, so Cherries’ fans weren’t overoptimistic. But the starting line-up looked encouraging: Fraser was available to play despite midweek rumours; Brooks was back in place of Francis (Steve Cook being third choice captain); and we’d returned to our winning 4-4-2 system. Indeed it was Brooks who kicked the match off at 3 PM on the referee’s whistle; and then kicked it off a second time when the referee saw something he didn’t like. We started brightly and Wilson was seen to charge ahead of the pack on just five minutes and was one-on-one with Schmeichel in the Leicester goal when the referee blew for offside. However, the game then switched and in the next five minutes Begovic was called upon to make not one but two great saves: from Vardy and Ghezzal respectively.
The match subsequently settled into a rhythm, with Bournemouth dominating even though they had less than half the possession. The deadlock was eventually broken on 19 minutes when a ball from King found Fraser and he cut inside to score. 1-0. A Leicester shot hit the crossbar on 33 minutes, but it was Fraser again who scored three minutes later when – this time – Wilson (who worked hard throughout this game and really deserved a goal of his own) played him in and he beat Schmeichel. 2-0. And after another three minutes a Leicester player was adjudged to have handled in the box and we were awarded a penalty. Despite the idiot behind me screaming for Fraser to take the penalty because he was on a hat-trick, it was King who – quite rightly – took it, and scored by sending Schmeichel the wrong way. 3-0 was a great score to be going into half-time with.
Neither side made any significant changes in their style of play going into the second half; but Leicester seemed to up the pace, and we had to follow suit. On the hour mark, Leicester made a double substitution; and about ten minutes later they had Morgan sent off for two yellow cards. (England centre-half Maguire should have been sent off for two yellow cards in the first half, but the referee had bottled it then.) Could we make our one man advantage count? Well yes, it seemed we could; because goal scorer Fraser turned provider when he pulled a ball back for Smith, on his 100th appearance for the Cherries, and Smith made it 4-0. (Smith had moved forward into a midfield position when Francis had replaced Brooks. Brooks had received a standing ovation as he left the pitch, and Steve Cook had instantly handed the armband to Francis even though Francis hadn’t asked for it.)
That should have been it – a clear 4-0 win – but as always in recent Cherries matches there were late goals; and this time we weren’t the scorers. On 89 minutes Rico was deemed to have mistimed a challenge in the penalty area, and the penalty was successfully converted. A minute later, sloppy defending on our part enabled Leicester to break, against the run of play, and a cross to reach the substitute Albrighton, who headed home Leicester’s second. City fans (or, at least, those who hadn’t left ages before) began to sing “We’re going to win 5-4” – and for the five added minutes Bournemouth looked very nervy. But we held out, replacing Lerma (who’d played another tough game) with Lewis Cook, and King with Mousset, both being straight swaps. 4-2, and now we’re fifth in the Premier League – above Spurs!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Smith (7), S Cook (7), Ake (6), Rico (6);
Brooks (7), Lerma (7), Gosling (6), Fraser (9);
Wilson (7), King (6)