Date: 26 February 2022
Despite being at home to a ten man mid-table team, Bournemouth made heavy weather of this match and never led until the 89th minute.
The Cherries lined up with Smith back from injury (arguably our ‘man of the match’, though he didn’t play the full 90 minutes) and new players Cantwell and Dembele both starting. Dembele was playing right in front of us in the first half, and really impressed with some of his clever trickery. Unfortunately, though, he showed less skill when it came to the quality of his passes – and it must have been particularly frustrating for Zemura that he overlapped Dembele, whenever the latter was in possession, yet Dembele never even tried to pass to him.
But it wasn’t just Dembele who disappointed in the first half. Too many of our passes seemed to go backwards rather than forwards. And it was unsurprising when Stoke went into a deserved lead as Smith (Stoke’s Smith, of course, not ours!) sent a cracking shot past Zemura and in off the post. 0-1.
Our chances looked brighter when Stoke’s Fox was red-carded for a dangerous tackle on Billing. We couldn’t see the incident from where we sat, but the referee was very well-placed to make the call. Not long after, Solanke had the ball in the net but our celebrations were cut short when the referee ruled it out for a handball. After this, it was Billing who had the best opportunities to score an equaliser for us: he had two chances just before the break (one an open goal) and another just after – a header that hit the bar. So Billing could have had a hat-trick but in the end had nothing!
We continued to trail until the 83rd minute, and for a while Huddersfield took over second place in the Championship table from us (although we do have four games in hand over them of course), but then Solanke steamed down the left wing and won a free kick that Cantwell took. By the time the ball had reached Kelly, who passed it back across the goal mouth, Solanke was on hand to finish the move he’d started. 1-1. This late in the game you’d think it could only be a consolation, but Solanke had other ideas and – forgoing any celebrations – ran the ball back to the centre circle to get the match restarted as quickly as possible. And there was only one minute of normal time remaining on the clock when Solanke failed to control the ball in the box but it fell fortuitously to Lowe who was on hand to score. He revealed an undershirt that we couldn’t see from where we were, but which presumably dedicated the goal to his new-born child.
Would an exhausted Stoke now give in, disillusioned, for the remainder of the match? Far from it; from somewhere they found a new lease of life and dominated the six minutes that were added on. They had at least three shots on goal during this frantic period, requiring a couple of magnificent saves from Travers. So a sigh of relief went up when the referee declined to extend the added time any further than the previously allotted six minutes. Somehow against all odds we’d won 2-1!
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Mepham, Kelly, Zemura;
Lowe, Cantwell, Billing, Dembele;