Date: 21 January 2020
Is this the turning point we’d all been waiting for – the start of the next ‘great escape’? Well, we thought the same after the Luton game, so I guess it’s a bit too early to say.
But I had the feeling early on that this was going to be a good day, when the drive from home to Bournemouth took about half the time it had taken just two weeks earlier. The gates opened half an hour later than advised (again!) but this didn’t result in any particularly long queues other than at the away end. The team was announced and Francis was, as expected, in for the suspended Steve Cook while Solanke had replaced Gosling, presumably in order to switch to 4-4-2. It was, though, Brighton who started most brightly, with Bournemouth unable to get much time on the ball let alone manage any shots. But Ramsdale kept us in the game, and it was interesting to note that sometimes he ignored pleas from Francis and Aké and declined to ‘play from the back’, thus avoiding the dreadful error made by Mark Travers a couple of weeks ago. Meanwhile, the home crowd were making more noise than they have in a long time, and Callum Wilson and Solanke were working really hard (Solanke probably having the best game he’s ever had for us).
From around the 32nd minute things changed dramatically: we had two good shots (Rico hit the side netting on one and everyone thought the ball had gone in) followed by two corner kicks all within two minutes. When nothing came of this some fans started to drift towards the refreshment facilities, but that would prove to be a mistake as a Solanke pass found Harry Wilson who made it 1-0 with a left-footed shot on 36 minutes. Before half time a corner kick reached Callum Wilson, who appeared to score via a deflection. In both cases, the announcer waited for VAR confirmation before naming the scorer – and even then perhaps got it wrong because Callum’s ‘goal’ was probably really an own goal. Nonetheless the fans immediately started singing “Bournemouth’s goal machine”, clearly understanding that encouragement is precisely what Callum needs right now.
One throw-in just before half time and two just after were in positions that would normally suit the absent Steve Cook, so Billing took them. They weren’t bad throws, but nothing came of them. Bournemouth grew in confidence as the second half proceeded, and we hadn’t reached the hour mark when a despairing Brighton manger made a triple substitution! This helped Brighton to become more attacking, and led to a series of world-class saves from Ramsdale, but the next goal came from Callum Wilson. Again Solanke could be credited with the assist, and this time there was no doubt that Callum was the scorer.
It was a shame for the team, and especially for Ramsdale, that Brighton scored a consolation goal on 81 minutes. This led to nine minutes of intense pressure from Brighton, hoping for a late comeback. Our players tried to resist the pressure but, to be honest, looked exhausted. Four minutes were added, leading to groans from the home fans – who then whistled impatiently until the final whistle sounded. In the meantime Ramsdale had been announced as the sponsors’ ‘man of the match’ and for once I’m sure everyone was in agreement about that.
The team did a lap of honour after the final whistle. The crowd, despite the freezing conditions, stayed on and applauded their heroes. We’re still in the relegation zone, but the team have tonight demonstrated clearly that they’ll do everything in their powers to get out of it.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game (I've given the players marks out of ten):
A Smith (7), Francis (6), Aké (8), Rico (7);
H Wilson (7), Lerma (7), Billing (6), Fraser (7);
C Wilson (8), Solanke (8)
A Smith, Francis, Aké, Rico;
L Cook, Lerma, Billing, Fraser;