Date: 1 October 2018
The oft-repeated factoid that “Bournemouth have never won a Premier League match on a Monday” was at last put to bed tonight – in a match that saw a repeat of the score I witnessed at Selhurst Park in February 2016, but this time with a much better view!
The selected line-up retained some features of the recent cup game (Smith at left back; L Cook and Lerma in central midfield) but chiefly saw the return of the league team. Gosling and Stanislas, both on their way back from injury, were named on the bench and in the end were the only two substitutes employed. Ibe was nowhere to be seen. Francis had another excellent match despite being tested hard by the Palace forwards.
Palace won the toss and opted to put Bournemouth off by swopping ends. King failed to connect with a cross in the first few minutes but within five minutes we were 1-0 up: Wilson supplying Brooks whose shot went in off the underside of the crossbar. This was his first Premier League goal, but five minutes later he could have scored his second when he had a similar chance to shoot but chose an unselfish pass instead. Brooks had a good match all round, helping out in defence more than previously, and was my nominee for ‘man of the match’ as of half time. (But he was substituted too early to really earn the title.) There was excellent fast, dominant pay from Bournemouth throughout the first half and we really should have scored more than the one goal. Begovic, on one occasion, sarcastically applauded a linesman’s decision and was lucky not to be yellow-carded for it. As half time approached first King and then Wilson started hobbling. Oh dear, were we about to lose both strikers? No; somehow they both recovered during the break.
The banter from Palace fans was good. They’d seen our clappers (once again issued free to every seat) and sarcastically sang “We clap with our hands” (to the tune of “We score when we want”); as well as a ruder, unrepeatable, song suggesting where we could stuff said clappers! Some combination of the fans’ support, Hodgson’s half-time talk, or the fact that we were playing in the ‘wrong’ direction, resulted in Palace starting the second half much brighter than Bournemouth. We were now leaving a lot of space for our opponents to operate in, and Palace relentlessly bombarded our penalty area. The inevitable occurred on 55 minutes: van Aanholt beat Francis on Palace’s left flank to shoot and make the score 1-1. Howe responded quickly, sacrificing Brooks so that we could switch to a 3-5-2 system. Francis, Steve Cook and Ake played along the back; Fraser switched to the right so that he and Smith could be wingbacks; Gosling came on to play in the ‘hole’ behind Wilson and King. This looked a lot better and we took back control of the game – Gosling getting forward a lot and playing virtually as a centre-forward at times. Our best scoring chance, though, came when Fraser used his pace to race up the right wing and cross to Wilson, who despite being one-on-one with the keeper still managed to see his shot saved.
For reasons that were at first unclear, we now reverted to 4-4-2, King becoming the leftmost midfielder and Wilson/Gosling the twin strikers. But Eddie’s intentions soon became obvious as Stanislas came on for King in the 84th minute. And then, as luck would have it, Lerma was elbowed and we were awarded a penalty less than three minutes after our first-choice penalty taker had left the pitch! Stanislas took it, many fans not daring to look. They needn’t have worried; he shot straight down the middle as the Palace keeper dived to the side! Goals in consecutive matches for Stanislas, and the score now 2-1 to us.
Ake was announced as the sponsors’ ‘man of the match’ and the fourth official signalled four minutes’ added time. It felt like twice that long, as we nervously clung to our slender lead. But we held on, and thus became equal on points with our next opponents, Watford – setting up a tie to relish on Saturday next.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Francis (8), S Cook (7), Ake (7), Smith (7);
Brooks (8), L Cook (8), Lerma (8), Fraser (7);
Wilson (7), King (7)