Date: 4 May 2019
What a perfect end to my season: a frustrating match at times; but a Cherries goal, just as time seemed to be running out, that resulted in our first ever league victory over Spurs.
Before the match there was the matter of end-of-season awards. David Brooks, unsurprisingly, got the Junior Cherries one; Nathan Aké got the Exiles one; and Ryan Fraser scooped all the others. There was a player of the month award for Callum Wilson, and a special farewell for Marc Pugh – who came onto the pitch through a guard of honour to make his valedictory speech. And then we settled down for the match, surprised to see Boruc and Mepham dropped to the bench in favour of Travers and Simpson, while there was also a starting place for the unpopular Ibe. Someone has said that Smith’s our best right back and our best left back; well, today he played on the right with Clyne moved to the left. Aké was in central midfield, Fraser to the right (unusually) and King to the left in midfield, and Ibe just behind Wilson up front.
Despite all these positional changes, everyone seemed reasonably clear about their role. Fraser took all the corners, Aké continued to help out in defence as needed, but our main concern was about Travers: how would he cope against a top six side on his debut, and how nervous would he be? We needn’t have worried. I counted at least six world class saves in the first half, and all varied in style: catching the ball high or low, punching it away, tipping it over the bar. The North Stand were soon on their feet, applauding his every move and singing his name. Who was this guy and how had Eddie kept his existence secret for so long? In between great saves, he was confidently ordering his defence around, and issuing instructions they seemed very willing to obey. It’s hard to remember a time when we saw such a good goalkeeping display as we witnessed today. And the best player in the back four was unquestionably Simpson – though I guess that may be partly because he’s used to playing in front of Travers in the Under 21s? The first half was all Spurs really, but with Travers keeping us in the game again and again.
But a game changing moment came just before half time when Son was sent off for a pull on Lerma. This seemed to give our players a little more confidence about going forward, and the half ended with a string of Bournemouth corners. Spurs made a double substitution at half time, but one of the new arrivals – Foyth – lasted no more than three minutes before he, too, was sent off – this for a challenge on Simpson. I wasn’t sure, though, that we could capitalise on this two man advantage. Spurs, as you’d expect, now put all their players behind the ball, and frustrated us as we made wave after wave of attack but couldn’t find a way through. They also used every time-wasting tactic they could think of, especially their goalie, whilst our goalie now had little to do – but never mind, as he’d already done more than enough to merit ‘man of the match’ in the first half alone.
Fraser and King had swopped wings for the last ten minutes of the first half; after the break Ibe took over from King on the right wing while King returned to his more usual position to the left of Wilson up front. Thus it remained until Eddie made his only substitution of this match – Mousset for Ibe – on 80 minutes. The two wingers now reverted to their starting positions while Mousset played to Wilson’s right. And on his very first touch, Mousset sent a screamer of a shot from distance, that was on target but was stopped by Lloris. It’s as though he were saying we should try something different, as the patient build-up play clearly wasn’t producing any goals. On 90 minutes Mousset was in the perfect position in the goalmouth to head in a Fraser corner, but failed to do so. That seemed like our last opportunity of the match as four minutes’ added time was announced, but from Fraser’s very next corner kick Aké headed home to send the home crowd wild. 1-0, and all we had to do now was hang on.
The sponsors’ ‘man of the match’ was announced: Travers. No surprise there! There was some kind of punch-up between several players that required intervention from both assistant referees; and we just prayed that no more time would be added on. A string of Spurs’ corners ensured that we couldn’t start celebrating early – but at last came the final whistle! The players went off to collect their children and babies for the traditional end-of-season lap of honour, which most fans remained for. All the players, including unused substitutes and recovering injured players, seemed to be present with the obvious exception of Begovic. With youngsters like Travers, Simpson, Brooks, Lewis Cook, Surridge and Scrimshaw at the club, it’s to be hoped that the future may depend on youth rather than expensive transfers. But my own record season (24 matches attended, far exceeding my previous record of 18 in 2010-2011 and 2013-2014) has ended in a very satisfactory way with much grounds for optimism about the future of our club.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):