Date: 11 February 2023
This game will mainly be remembered for the reception given to Eddie Howe by the home fans – but this was saved for the final whistle and we had to get through 90 minutes of football first.
The team lined up in a 4-4-2 system again, and with just two changes from the previous Saturday: Stephens in for Mepham and Solanke for Semenyo, neither of which I disagreed with. So we were starting with two out of six of our January signings while the matchday squad also featured three returnees from injury: Solanke, Tavernier and Fredericks.
We went ahead just before the half hour mark, when Billing won a corner (following an attack in which he’d already played a major part), Bournemouth’s first of the game, and the corner kick found Senesi unmarked on the back post making it fairly easy for him to score his first goal for the club. We had a lot of defending to do to retain this lead up to the break and were well into added time when unfortunately Neto saved a shot but put it straight into the path of Newcastle’s Almiron, who made it 1-1.
An early change in the second half saw Mepham come on for an injured Senesi and play in an unfamiliar ‘left centre back’ position. It seems to be a policy of O’Neil’s that he never changes the system or even the position of individual players when he makes a substitution. So his other three changes – Fredericks for Smith, Semenyo for Ouattara and Tavernier for Anthony – were also all one-for-one with no reshuffle. The score, though, stayed doggedly at 1-1 and there came a time when we seemed more keen to avoid losing our one point than to try and gain another two.
There was nearly another ‘injury time goal’ in the seven minutes added on, but this time it was for us. A Solanke shot reached the goal line but – as a subsequent VAR check confirmed – hadn't crossed it.
It seemed strange, throughout the game, to hear away fans singing “Eddie Howe’s Barmy Army.” Our own fans, of course, cheered their own team. But all this would change after the final whistle. As I hurried away (I only had thirty minutes to get to Bournemouth station for my train) I could hear the North Stand singing “Eddie Howe’s Barmy Army”, “Eddie, Eddie, Eddie ‘owe” and of course “Eddie had a dream…” at the tops of their voices.
The team lined up as follows at the start of the game:
Smith, Stephens, Senesi, Zemura;
Ouattara, Lerma, Billing, Anthony;