Date: 27 November 2021
For the second time this season (the first having been the Blackpool match) I saw Bournemouth give away a 2-0 lead this afternoon. This was especially frustrating given the fact that I’d had to make such an effort to get to the game in the first place.
My usual 11 o’clock train from Woking was cancelled (despite being shown as running when I left home) and I was advised to take a late-running Salisbury train as far as Basingstoke, then the 11:49 from there to Bournemouth. This plan worked perfectly until, just as we were approaching Southampton, the guard announced that this train was terminating here. Worse still, there were no onward trains to Bournemouth at all, so we’d have to wait for a replacement bus to be organised. Well, this gave me time to have an early lunch at Southampton; and the replacement bus (as advised) took exactly 50 minutes to get to Bournemouth once it was on its way. So I arrived at Bournemouth Central Station at 14:10 with ample time to get to the stadium for kick-off, but it had still been an unpleasant journey with too many changes.
There was no evidence that anyone else had struggled to get there: the home stands (in stark contrast to those I’d witnessed at Millwall) were almost entirely full. The team line-up was interesting. With four defenders injured (Smith, Cahill, Kelly and Zemura) Parker had – for the first time this season as far as I know – changed the system. We had three centre backs (Mepham, Lerma and Steve Cook), two holding midfielders (Kilkenny and Lewis Cook) and two wing backs (Stacey and Anthony). The seventh minute applause for Brooks was somewhat muted compared to recent games, but this was probably because Coventry were attacking our goal at the time. But the 0-0 deadlock wasn’t broken until the 45th minute when a curling cross from Anthony somehow went straight into the goal (though its intended recipient, Solanke, would have been perfectly placed if it hadn’t).
So, one goal up at half time but of course we needed another. When it came, it was from an almost identical curling cross from Anthony on the left. Whether the ball would have gone in on its own is up for debate, but fortunately Billing was perfectly placed to guide it home. We seemed almost certain of a good result now, but everything was about to change. A rash challenge from Lerma (unusually playing at centre back today), on a Coventry player who was in on goal, resulted in a straight red card for Bournemouth’s number 8. It was fortunate that it was just outside the penalty area, or we might have been doubly penalised. Nonetheless it was going to prove tough to hang on to our lead now.
At first we seemed to decide that attack is the best form of defence, and our ten men moved up a gear in trying to score a third. But slowly, backed on by tremendous travelling support, Coventry’s players grew in confidence. And on 85 minutes they scored a goal. It was getting harder and harder for us to hold on to our lead.
A sigh could be heard around the stadium as five added minutes were announced. We all feared the worse. Parker was getting desperate: he’d now brought on two extra defenders (Davis and Ibsen Rossi) to try and shore up our defence. And all to no avail: on the stroke of 95 minutes, with virtually the last kick of the game, Coventry equalised with a very long shot that gave Travers no chance. And although we’d gained a point (and so had Fulham and West Brom, so our league position was unchanged) this very much felt like a defeat. (My trains home all ran right on time, but that offered little consolation.)
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Mepham, Lerma, S Cook;
Stacey, Kilkenny, L Cook, Anthony;