Date: 20 October 2018
A scoreless draw in this local derby would probably have been the prediction of many neutrals – but not, I’d imagine, of the supporters on either side. Fortunately it doesn’t tell the whole story, because there were parts of this game (notably just after the break and just before the very end) that were played at a fast and furious pace; and there were heart-stopping moments at both ends of the pitch.
This game sold out faster than any other Cherries’ league or cup game this season to date. For the first time, I was unable to get a seat in the East Stand (even though there were no ‘blocked’ seats between the home and away fans today) and I had to pay extra to go into the Main Stand. I was surprised to find that at a time (2:15) when the queues for the East Stand were massive as always – fans taking at least a quarter of an hour to get into the ground – the same number of people were entering the Main Stand without having to queue at all. No-one wanted to check my bag – or search my pockets – and I could only conclude that the Club presume that the higher priced tickets guarantee a more trustworthy kind of punter! There were actually a few empty seats near me, for some reason or other, and it was disconcerting to see the team playing the ‘wrong’ way in the first half (i.e. left to right), even though I was aware that strictly speaking they were ‘right’ and I was ‘wrong’!
The day was unseasonably warm, far exceeding the forecasts, and the sun was shining brightly at 2 – but that didn’t stop the Club from putting the floodlights on. It seems that although we can’t afford a new stadium or new training facilities there’s still some money to waste. We’d all been given free clappers again – and a free sticker album. Speaking of money, the cheaply purchased David Brooks was still keeping the £15 million Jordon Ibe out of the team, and rightly so given that he’d scored in successive matches. And he began brightly too, almost creating a scoring opportunity for the home side in the first few minutes, but he then seemed to go off the boil and on the hour mark was replaced by Stanislas (Fraser moving to the right wing to accommodate this change). In fact the entire line-up, including the bench, was identical to the 4-0 win at Watford. But no-one played quite as well as they had then. Even Lerma and Ake, though they were still more impressive than most of their colleagues, both made a few mistakes today. Indeed Ake’s failure to beat Charlie Austin on 35 minutes resulted in the best scoring opportunity of the first half falling to the visitors – though fortunately for us Austin then ran out of space to shoot. As a 0-0 draw continued to be played out on the pitch, it fell to the fans to make their own entertainment. The North Stand inevitably sang ‘Mind the gap’ and ‘The south coast is ours’. Away fans predictably responded with ‘When the saints go marching in’ and we equally predictably answered that with ‘You’ve only got one song’.
The half time ‘entertainment’ comprised on-pitch interviews with ‘legends’ Neil Young and Ted MacDougall. The latter probably upset a few fans when he said that among the happiest years of his career were the two he spent at Southampton! He was then asked, if he could be twinned with any other Bournemouth striker past or present, who would he most like to play alongside? I thought he’d stick with Boyer but he actually didn’t hesitate before replying ‘Jermain Defoe’. And yes, one can imagine that that would indeed have been a lethal combination.
Our best spell was probably in the opening minutes of the second half, but Southampton soon upped their game to match ours. The best scoring chance of this half fell to us when on 65 minutes a well-worked move involving Stanislas and Wilson gave King a golden opportunity to score – but unfortunately his shot from close range went wide. A few minutes later, a Fraser corner met Ake’s head, and his header was a powerful one, but it was an easy one for the keeper to catch. Stanislas and Fraser were now giving everything they had on the wings, but Fraser’s move to the right turned out to be short-lived as Ibe replaced him on 76 minutes. Before this, Ings had been substituted for Southampton and seemed genuinely surprised at the warmth of the ovation he received from all four sides of the stadium, so he paused during his exit from the pitch and returned the compliment. Well, he is still one of a very small group from the Bournemouth Academy to have played in the Premier League.
Sitting where I was, I was able to see how animated Eddie Howe was becoming towards the end of the game – shouting endless instructions to his players. It wasn’t that he was displeased with their performance; he was just as nervous as we all were about holding on to the clean sheet. This is probably why, with five minutes of normal time to go, he replaced King with Gosling in preference to Defoe (despite Defoe’s attempts to gain Eddie’s attention by warming up frantically). So Gosling played in the ‘hole’ behind Wilson, as he had done towards the end of each of the previous two league games. As five minutes of extra time were announced, we actually looked the more likely team to score, but we weren’t taking too many chances. After all, 0-0 was good enough to keep us in sixth place in the Premier League.
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 (6), Ake (7), Smith (6);
Brooks (5), L Cook (6), Lerma (7), Fraser (6);
Wilson (6), King (6)