Date: 5 January 2019
AFC Bournemouth in general, and Eddie Howe in particular, showed contempt for the FA Cup and for the club’s loyal fans by fielding an eclectic mix of untested players and underperformers this afternoon. This pretty well guaranteed that we’d escape from this competition at the earliest possible opportunity.
The day had started so well. Knowing that it was an early kick-off (though being unsure why it was), and with rail replacement buses operating all around the Bournemouth area, I’d set off from home in my car before 7:45 AM. Based on recent experiences, I’d allowed three hours for the journey – but empty roads everywhere (even the infamous A338 spur road) meant I completed it in less than half the allotted time. So I then made a few purchases in the club shop (more about that later) before treating myself to a delicious all day breakfast. The day had a ‘feel-good’ factor about it at this stage. But my return to the ground 45 minutes before kick-off was the turning point. The queue for entrance ‘E’ (in the East Stand) stretched back past ‘D’ and ‘C’ so that at the back three different queues were all mixed up in the vicinity of the club shop. It took half an hour to progress to the front and to enter the ground, to the news that it wasn’t even a second XI that were playing – but players such as Clyne (who’d joined the club less than 24 hours earlier) and Taylor (whom I’d heard of but never previously seen) – with Mousset the only out-and-out striker and no Plan ‘B’ for that position on the bench.
We lined up in a very flat 4-4-2, no-one varying much from their allotted position. From the start there were flashes of brilliance from individuals but not much ‘team work’ – except for Clyne and Fraser who seemed to develop a pretty quick understanding down the right flank. Our two forward-going players, Mousset and Ibe, were keen to try and score but not to help anyone else do so. The best opportunity by a mile came on 27 minutes, when an Ibe shot was blocked and the ball fell perfectly for Mousset – who shot over the bar right in front of the Brighton fans. Inevitably they mocked him, with cries of “you’re f***ing useless” directed at him each time he got the ball, but that’s the kind of thing you put up with as a professional footballer. Unfortunately in his case it meant his head dropped, he completely lost his confidence, and he hardly did anything for the remaining 60 minutes of play.
Meanwhile Pugh and Fraser had swopped wings, for no obvious reason and inevitably breaking up the Clyne-Fraser partnership as a result, and Brighton were coming into the game more. Four minutes after Mousset’s appalling miss, a Brighton player shot through Cook’s legs from the right hand side; and just three minutes later a second Brighton shot, delivered with power, came off the post and landed in the back of the net; and Brighton were 2-0 up. They had at least two more golden opportunities to put the game to bed towards half time, so the score line was nothing more than they deserved.
Eddie made one substitution at half time. Taylor had had a dreadful first half, every one of his passes seeming to go awry, and to some extent this was unsurprising because he seemed to be trying to learn from Surman, playing alongside him, whose distribution wasn’t much better! Brooks replaced him, in an unfamiliar central midfield position, and immediately started to shine in defence, midfield and attack! It’s a lot to ask of a youngster, but in many people’s opinions he was worthy of a ‘man of the match’ award despite only playing 45 minutes. The other change was that Ibe, Fraser and Pugh now lined up right-to-left respectively behind Mousset. This resulted in Ibe being very active (but still in a selfish way, and apparently unable to complete any moves he began) on the right; while Pugh returned to the left and was in the perfect position on the edge of the area to receive a ball from Surman and score ten minutes into the half. At 1-2 it was now ‘game on’, until on 64 minutes a Brighton header from close range restored the two goal differential. (The scoreboard briefly showed 2-3 but that was wishful thinking; the score was 1-3.) Ibe continued to make numerous mistakes until even the most loyal home supporters were screaming out for him to be substituted; eventually Eddie did just that, but neither Stanislas nor (later) Daniels could enable us to get anything out of this game. It had been a dreadful performance, and Clyne must already be wondering whether he made the right decision in joining us.
When making a few purchases in the club shop mid-morning I’d spotted that the Matchday programme was already on sale at the counter, so I’d taken the unusual step of buying it there rather than outside. The till receipt showed it as a “friendly” programme – which to me sums up the problem in a nutshell. Once upon a time, FA Cup round 3 was our biggest game of the season; now it’s treated as a “friendly”. If I’d realised this in advance I wouldn’t have got up literally before the crack of dawn and wasted my money on attending this match. Poor show.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
Clyne (7), S Cook (6), Simpson (6), Rico (6);
Fraser (6), Surman (5), Taylor (4), Pugh (6);
Mousset (5), Ibe (5)
Clyne, S Cook, Simpson, Daniels;
Stanislas, Fraser, Pugh;