Date: 4 December 2018
Against Norwich I wrote that the Cherries played poorly but won 2-1. Well, tonight we did the same again and achieved the same score. But this time it was with our first-choice team and it appeared to result from a questionable game plan; so the fans’ mood was decidedly downcast by half nine.
The ‘priority points’ system for getting tickets continues to result in me being allocated a slightly ‘worse’ seat for each game I attend. Tonight I was in row C (virtually below pitch level) in the Ted MacDougall Stand – and at the start of the match I was wondering why literally dozens of seats all around me were empty. Was it something I’d said?! Actually these seats mostly filled up by about ten minutes after kick-off, and as there’d been no huge crowds queuing outside I could only assume working people find it difficult to get out by 7:45. But that didn’t really explain why all the seats near the back of the stand had filled up before the front ones. And, partly no doubt because of the emptiness of the away stand, the final attendance figure would tonight be below 10,000 for the first time this season in a league game.
Eddie reverted tonight to his first choice starting eleven – in other words Brooks replaced Mings and Lerma replaced Surman. On paper a home match against one of the favourites for relegation should be one of our easier games; but Huddersfield put pressure on us from the off, and dominated the first five minutes. But then a Fraser free kick found Wilson’s head, and now we were 1-0 up – and running? Moments later a well-worked corner presented King with an opportunity to put us 2-0 up, but he headed wide. By the time 20 minutes were on the clock, there were already signs that Huddersfield were taking the initiative in this game while we were relying on playing on the break. An odd tactic for such a match. But then our fears were allayed for a while when Wilson, charging forward on Bournemouth’s right, selflessly squared to Fraser on his left who slotted home for 2-0. So Wilson and Fraser now each had one goal and one assist in this match. But who’d have guessed then that we’d hardly have any more shots in the next 70 minutes of play? Huddersfield’s goal on 38 minutes was a bit scrappy, as one of their players headed over Begovic, but it was thoroughly deserved. At half time with the score at 2-1 there was a general feeling that Bournemouth really needed to buck their ideas up for the second half.
It didn’t happen. Quite the reverse: Huddersfield dictated the game from now on, and had two thirds of the possession and most of the shots. Crucially, Begovic again and again kept us in the game. Some of his saves were run-of-the-mill but others were quite spectacular, and I was in the perfect place to witness them. Francis was also (thankfully) having a better game than of late, and Steve Cook (who would later be announced as the sponsors’ official ‘man of the match’) was making some important clearances. Brooks was also needing to track back and assist Francis, which he did well until being surprisingly replaced by an ineffectual (on the night) Stanislas on 62 minutes. On the opposite flank King (who’d now swapped places with Fraser) was being asked to track back and help Daniels out, but he was very poor and simply got in Daniels’ way. There was nothing in this half for home fans to get excited about except, first, a surreal moment when Huddersfield introduced a sub (Sabiri) who played less than four minutes before getting injured and having to go straight back off! And secondly there was a gasp all round when Aké headed a ball back to Begovic; he got away with it, but it was so nearly an own goal, following Lerma’s example against Arsenal!
The crowd was still wondering why Brooks had been subbed. After all, he hadn’t played for much of Saturday’s game so could hardly need resting. Well, the next substitution (on 87 minutes) was Mousset for Fraser; but then Mousset was asked to play very deep on the left – just in front of Daniels – while King reverted to his starting position up front. Surely not the best use of Mousset’s skills? Eddie seemed to have decided that desperately holding on to a one goal lead was the best we could hope for. Someone near me expressed the fear I was also feeling: that, as in the Manchester United game, Surman would come on to bolster our defences, resulting in us conceding another goal! Thankfully this didn’t happen!
Five minutes of added time were announced, resulting in cheers from hopeful visiting fans and a general feeling of despair amongst the home supporters. Eddie brought on Mings for King. Steve Cook and Aké seemed to be discussing where Mings would fit in, but it turned out that he was actually being asked to play the left wing (!) so that Mousset could go up front to Wilson’s left. Well it worked, in that we held on for a 2-1 win, but all the cheers at the final whistle came from Huddersfield fans who knew their team had outplayed us. We simply breathed a sigh of relief that it was over.
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 (8), Aké (6), Daniels (7);
Brooks (7), L Cook (7), Lerma (8), Fraser (7);
Wilson (6), King (6)