Date: 25 September 2018
This was a real evening of ups and downs – but one of the most thrilling conclusions to a match that I can ever remember...
It was, on paper, a chilly evening (temperatures forecast to drop into single figures for the first time in weeks). But there was no wind. There was, however, the harvest moon – due to rise nine minutes before kick-off and looking quite spectacular by the end of the match. Remembering the ‘super moon’ under which we’d beaten Chelsea on 31st January, I felt that this harvest moon could only be a good omen!
There seemed to be a lot of empty seats in the stadium, but these all filled up ten minutes or so after kick-off, so I guess there was some problem with the turnstiles. By and large Eddie had given the team that beat MK Dons in the previous round another chance to show what they could do, the only two changes being Smith for Rico and Stanislas for Fraser. Smith as left back somewhat surprised me, but it could be that Eddie wants to get him used to teaming up with Stanislas again, (and they did indeed work well together all night,) with a view to using them on the opposite flank – the right – in the future? Francis and Lewis Cook also had particularly impressive games, while Boruc looked somewhat dodgy as though he’s completely lacking confidence these days.
There was almost a calamitous start – Blackburn getting the ball in the net after just 25 seconds and the away fans cheering like mad until the penny dropped that it was off-side! But this gave us the spur to get going, and within the next ten minutes Mousset had sent a header over the bar, Ibe had shot wide, and a header from Mings had been caught by the Rovers keeper. Then on 14 minutes a Francis cross found Stanislas, who scored on his first start since returning from injury. The rest of the half was something of an exhibition display by Bournemouth, but no further goals were scored despite two golden opportunities for Defoe (at least he’s getting into good positions). Ibe and Stanislas swopped wings for a while, and we went into half-time still on 1-0.
No changes were made to the home team going into the second half, nor were any needed. The ever-lively Ibe was brought down in the 57th minute and after a brief discussion took the resultant penalty himself. Sending the keeper the wrong way, he thus made the score 2-0. But five minutes later a mistake by Jefferson Lerma gave the ball away in a dangerous place, and Blackburn’s Conway scored by shooting from distance. 2-1. King was brought on for Mousset, to play behind Defoe. Pugh was brought on for Stanislas, in a straight swop, but – as so often occurs after substitutions – we lost control of the match and started to look sloppy. Mings gave away a penalty, and the shot went in off the post. 2-2. Wilson came on for Defoe, but on the 80th minute Blackburn had a golden chance to seal the win. Fortunately their player’s shot was a wild one. Nonetheless the game was all Blackburn’s now. Eddie shouted to Simpson and Mings to play a higher line, but this didn’t help much and a penalty shootout seemed like the best we could hope for. The sponsors (somewhat sentimentally perhaps?) chose Stanislas as their ‘man of the match’. Four minutes’ added time was announced, during which one Rovers player literally ‘took one for the lads’ by stealing the ball (with his hands!) from Wilson’s feet. The referee had of course no choice but to issue a red card.
So we finally arrived in the fourth of four minutes’ injury time, with penalties looming. (A prospect I wasn’t relishing because the drive to Bournemouth had taken two and a half hours, and I had a 5:30 alarm set for the following morning to empty two rooms of my house before decorators arrived!) And then a Pugh corner found Wilson, who headed home a dramatic winner for Bournemouth. There was time for just one final Blackburn corner, which their keeper came up for; but nothing came of it, and the game ended 3-2.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (8), Simpson (6), Mings (7), Smith (7);
Ibe (8), Lerma (7), L Cook (8), Stanislas (7);
Mousset (7), Defoe (7)