Date: 6 August 2021
Two of the ‘fancied’ teams in this year’s Championship went head to head on the opening night of the new league season, and fought out a score draw.
It was good to see a full house tonight, though it wasn’t at all clear to me why people prefer to come out on a Friday night rather than the traditional Saturday afternoon slot – especially as tonight’s game was on the TV. The club had failed to allow for these numbers, though, so programmes ran out half an hour before kick-off and long queues extended around the stadium trying to gain access. Also, inexplicably, the players’ names were neither announced nor shown on the screen, so anyone who’d been absent from last week’s game may have had difficulty working out who was who.
For me, though, the players were easy to recognise because – apart from the previously suspended Mepham returning at the expense of Ibsen Rossi – this was the same eleven who played last week after Stacey’s injury. Which shows that Parker doesn’t play a ‘cup eleven’ that’s different from his ‘league eleven’, but rather prefers to pick the best available players for every game. Once again the players declined to ‘take the knee’, but once they got going it was obvious that no-one was quite up to their standard of last week. Kilkenny – last Saturday’s ‘man of the match’ – appeared lightweight against higher quality opposition. (Though presumably he’s only standing in for the suspended Lerma.) Smith and Brooks – who’d scored twice last week - weren’t as effective on the right wing either. (A woman in the queue was claiming she’d managed to buy the actual shirt Brooks wore last Saturday. No-one believed her!)
Although 2-2 sounds like an exciting match for neutral observers, I didn’t actually think the football was that great. Both Bournemouth’s goals came against the run of play, so in fairness West Bromwich (misspelled as ‘Bromich’ on all the tickets!) probably deserved to win. I’m glad they didn’t, though.
We scored first, Anthony crossing to Marcondes who scored from close range in the 12th minute on his league debut. (He’d also scored pre-season against Chelsea.) Poor West Brom marking helped our cause here! As this was the only game taking place on this Friday night we were able to sing – briefly – “we’re top of the league” until West Brom equalized via a free header on 33 minutes. So the half time score was 1-1.
Although Anthony wasn’t quite as impressive as last week he did play a part in both our goals. For our second, in the 52nd minute, he passed to Zemura who attempted to find Solanke. David Button in the West Brom goal palmed the ball away, but Billing was in the right place at the right time to score his second of the campaign. The girl in the seat next to mine (who’d literally taken about 25 selfies during the first half) missed this as she hadn’t yet returned from her half time trip to the concourse. And when she eventually did, she took another selfie! A quarter of an hour after our second goal WBA again equalized; it appeared to be a brilliant team goal but it had begun with some attempted ‘trickery’ between Smith and Brooks that didn’t come off. Parker was probably content with a score draw as he only made one substitution – Saydee for Brooks – and that was when we were already into the four minutes’ added time at the end. The sponsors’ ‘man of the match’ was our captain, Kelly, and that was probably fair as he’d had a good game. Subsequently, I drove home in record time, entering the house at 11:35, so I was content with my evening overall.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Mepham, Kelly, Zemura;
Brooks, Marcondes, Billing, Anthony;