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AFC Bournemouth 1 Watford 1 (03/10/2015) 04/10/2015

Posted by Matt Rowson in Match reports.

1- It’s been seventeeen years since I came to Dean Court.  That was a very different time, a different set of circumstances altogether.  Everything’s changed since then, the teams, the sport, the profile of the fixture.  Hell, even Dean Court itself has been picked up, rotated ninety degrees and plonked down again.  It’s small, of course… small for it’s current lofty status.  Half the capacity of the Vic, which is hardly a colosseum in this environment itself.   And as such it feels almost as if it belongs in 1997, back when we played at stadiums this size, nestled into a well to do area of large houses and  shady avenues as a sort of afterthought, a discarded multi-vehicle garage abandoned between the houses.  Bournemouth aren’t above their station… they deserve to be where they are.  They got to the top flight by scoring lots of goals and winning a lot of football matches (note to Leeds, and similar.  Bigness not enough).  That they’re doing so on the back of an infrastructure that never expected to have to cope with all this is evidenced not just by the size of the ground but by the vague air of disorganisation as the turnstiles remain unopened as two’o’clock approaches, as the mislabelling of the away tickets.  In other circumstances we’d be rooting for the Cherries… good luck to them, sticking it to the man, upsetting applecarts that deserve upsetting.  But these aren’t other circumstances, and there’s been too much recent water under the bridge for much in the way of mutual respect.IMG_1715

2- The Hornets began with Nathan Aké making a first League start for us at left back, and Ikechi Anya pushed up into hamstring victim Jose Jurado’s spot in midfield.  With the away end on its feet and noisy the visitors started purposefully and aggressively, but this encouraging feel dissipated quickly.  Bournemouth began to dominate possession in midfield, as is their wont, and feverishly chased the ball down higher up the pitch.  These factors, combined with the ongoing isolation of our forward players, were a recipe for disaster… the Hornets in possession would find no space in front of them and shepherd the ball backwards and sideways in search of some control.  Bournemouth’s forwards denied us that control with their pressing and soon had the game pretty much exactly where they needed it… their threat, with Glenn Murray in for the unfortunate Wilson, came largely from crosses from the flanks but there was plenty of that. Anya and Abdi were set up wonkily right and left respectively, our two sitting midfielders were impotent, Troy worked as hard as ever but looked tentative and hesitant and even Gomes, whose heroics were to come, courted disaster by dwelling on a backpass in the absence of options in front of him.  Midway through the half Ritchie cut onto his left foot on the right and found Murray stepping back off the sleeping Prödl’s shoulder to head home.  This had been threatened several times.

Our side were not only impotent, they looked thoroughly miserable.  There was none of the spirit and vim that has characterised this team over the past season and a bit… indeed if anything this was resonant of the miserable Huddersfield game at the end of the previous season, as if we had dirty linen to be hung and scowled at in public.  How much of that was to do with the extent to which we were being outplayed and how much to do with the backstory of the ostracism of first Holebas and now, seemingly, Berghuis we can only speculate… two players whose public assessment of their arrival in Hertfordshire had felt, to varying degrees, somewhat less than wholeheartedly enthusiastic now seem to have paid the price for that apathy.  I’m all for Flores maintaining a hard line on such things, it would be somewhat surprising if such an approach to outing bad attitudes had a negative impact on the rest of the squad… but we didn’t look happy.

Nor did the travelling Hornets, nominally the hardcore with the highest stock of brownie points in the club’s furiously determined quest to ensure fairness in allocation of scarce tickets, cover themselves with glory.  Singing about a rival striker’s injury isn’t particularly classy, even in response to jibes about the destiny of a contested championship.  Even less classy was the pitiful booing that greeted our frustrated flailing around towards the end of the half.  There’s a wider and less clear cut discussion about the rights and wrongs of booing your own team in general… but in these circumstances seven of the starting eleven had been in the promoted side last season and had earned a little more patience.  All in all, a forty-four minutes to forget.

3- Weakest of a poor bunch in that first half was Etienne Capoue.  It’s been three-and-a-half games now without Valon Behrami alongside him – I’m both excited and terrified by the fact that he gets re-released from his cage against Arsenal of all teams in a fortnight – and more than any other period this half lent credibility to our pursuit of Abdoulaye Doucouré over the summer.  Ben Watson is terrific and has done fine as a stand in… but the roles in a Capoue/Watson partnership are less well defined than when, in general, Behrami is winning the ball and Capoue is feeding off his many scraps.  The Frenchman had a horrible half, largely bypassed and looking a little bit lost.  As it drew to a close he was involved in an altercation with goalscorer Murray on the touchline, ostensibly kicked off by a provocative challenge by Capoue.  Murray reacted angrily, and could have seen red for his retaliatory assault as the game finally restarted. Next to me, Dave fretted that we didn’t need this, didn’t need to be sucked into bad tempered nonsense as we have done here in previous years.  He was wrong.

It would be generous to credit Capoue with the forethought to deliberately upset Bournemouth’s applecart by starting a barney – more likely he was taking out his frustration at his own performance on an opponent who has never been shy with physical contact.  But we absolutely needed something to disrupt the Cherries’ total control on the passage of the game and there was a lingering tetchiness in the air as Ighalo chased down what should have been comfortable Bournemouth possession deep in their half.  Artur Boruc, truth be told, had looked nervous with the scant responsibilities he’d had that far, something we’d done precious little to test further, but Odion is the last person you want to gift the ball in front of goal at the moment.  It wasn’t quite a gimme, Boruc was still well positioned and Ighalo had something to do, but he dropped a shoulder, Boruc followed up his first gaffe by diving needlessly across Ighalo’s path in anticipation of a quick shot that didn’t come rendering the increasingly inevitable conclusion all the more comical from the away end.  In case this isn’t clear, Bournemouth should have been out of sight.  In drawing level at the break we had gotten away with it, big time.

4- So the second half was all about whether we would take advantage of this unexpected ushering back into the contest.  The answer was evident at the start of the second half as Nathan Aké, who had struggled to contain Ritchie, went in strongly and instantly on his charge.  “This shit is changing”.  He was penalised for a foul, which looked a bit harsh… but either way it was a statement that was echoed all over the pitch.  Words had been had.  We were much quicker, more mobile, more aggressively into every challenge. Game was back on.

Ighalo wriggled through on the left, his shot blocked rather nervously by a defence who suddenly had something to cope with.  Almost a victim mentality in the whites of their eyes, a nervousness that they’d blown it, that on the back of Gradel, Wilson and the rest the world was against them.  From the corner the ball broke to Watson who crashed a shot off the crossbar.  Anya floated through onto a breathtaking ball from Abdi but couldn’t beat Boruc on his weaker foot.  Ighalo got his head down and drove at the penalty area, going down under challenge as soon as he was over the line.  He was trying to draw a penalty, he didn’t get it and optimistic as the claim looked his reaction wasn’t the sheepish roll of someone who’d been trying it on, chasing Michael Oliver down the pitch in furious frustration.

Bournemouth found a footing, but there was none of the dominance they’d enjoyed in the first half.  Murray has long looked like a pub footballer (in appearance if not in impact or ability) and began to play like one, Running into the Watford half and seemingly shooting when he ran out of puff, a flimsy daisy cutter from thirty yards that Gomes gobbled up.  Greater challenges were to come… first from a magnificent scissor kick from Cook that prompted an even better save from the Brazilian, the ball having dipped over him the custodian had to reach down and behind to claw it out of the corner.  And then, the penalty.

Much has been spoken about the number of penalties that the Cherries have been awarded over the last few years.  These statistics (Bournemouth have earned four more penalties since the start of last season than anyone else in the league) can be a little misleading… if you’ve got players with quick feet and are dominating games you’re going to be inviting nervous tackles, no different to what Ighalo was trying to achieve earlier in the half.  The difficulty is where the desire to commit players into making mistakes crosses the line into seeing the award of a penalty to be the be-all and end-all by fair means or foul.  This is the fourth penalty we’ve had awarded against us at this stadium in three seasons, three of which soft (Mark Pugh got the echoes of stick for his swallow dive two years ago as he patrolled in front of the visiting fans in the first half) and this one was ludicrous, as it turned out, a cynical attempt to buy a penalty that didn’t even involve a tackle on the part of Capoue but we knew nothing of the detail of the scramble from our location.  With our heads in our hands we watched Murray wheeze up to the ball, and for Gomes to push his shot out, Cathcart clearing in the ensuing scramble.  Disproportionate celebration in the away end, Gomes continues to put in performances that defy his Tottenham reputation.

5- It should go without saying that this was a much better point for us than for Bournemouth.  We were the away side for one thing of course, but the game could have been scripted to eat away at Cherries’ nervous concerns…  their blunt edge contributing to failing to capitalise on their first half dominance, failing to pick up maximum points in a home game they must have pencilled in as a win.  Tougher opponents to come, if they can’t even beat Watford after that woeful first half…  when is Wilson back again…  who do you think we might attract in January (Will Hoskins?)

An away win would have rubbed the salt deeper, of course.  Much as any away point is a good point, much as we have no claim to anything more after that first half, there was an opportunity here that went begging.  For all of Bournemouth’s late flurry there was an opponent here desperate to feel sorry for itself as the game swung around in the second half.  We weren’t cruel, or ruthless, or clinical enough to ease them into fretful self pity We continue to make progress, but can’t be turning down points when on offer too often.


1. Wolery - 04/10/2015

Spot on, Matt. I wondered at the time whether anyone else was as embarrassed as I was with the charmless chanting about Wilson’s nasty injury. And you just have to laugh when the same people who were booing their team at 40 minutes were singing ‘This is the best trip…’ etc. half an hour later.

Take a point – deny Bournemouth two – move on.

2. HB84 - 04/10/2015

Thought both teams were poor. And agree fans were poor yesterday. Championship quality game.
No points dropped so far vs relegation rivals – small steps.

3. Wimborne Hornet - 04/10/2015

Good summary as ever. As a Hornets supporter living near Bournemouth this was the first I looked for on the fixture list. All I hear is about the club nearly going into administration, how the fans saved it, how Eddie Howe…. Etc. I don’t like friendly stewards, and want to feel like a bit of an outcast at an away match (like St James’ Park or The Den). For all the niceties of the stewards, I find myself really disliking the way B’mouth go about their game. Maybe it’s just me but they niggle, dive, and wind up their opposition. I know we were poor, didn’t deserve to go in at 1-1 at half time but Gomes’ save gave what I felt was some redemption for last year and sent the glory seeking Bournemouth fans (they couldn’t give tickets away 2 seasons ago) home with only a point.

4. Harefield Hornet - 05/10/2015

Having to listen to this game on 3CR was even more frustrating until we got lucky at the end of the first half. But the award of the almost obligatory penalty against us had me fuming until Gomez further cemented himself as true Watford hero. The commentators on 3CR said it was really soft, the 2nd challenge not the first, but it was diffcult to analyse even with the BBC replay and it wasn’t even discussed on MOTD? – did anyone get a better view?

Matt Rowson - 05/10/2015

The second clip here involving Capoue is what the penalty was awarded for

Harefield Hornet - 05/10/2015

I’ve watched this over and over and still can’t make my mind up – He’s obviously dived in himself looking for the tangle of legs – and the player next to him already has has his arm up (from an earlier contact?) before he’s even hit the deck!

5. Adam Segal - 05/10/2015

I didn’t think i’d say this but we really missed Jurado today. After his performance against Palace I realized what a creative influence he is, and also how he helps to alleviate pressure as an outlet from the back to link play with the forwards. Hopefully the international break will allow his hamstring to heel in time for Arsenal. Gomez is also fast becoming one of the best keepers we have had at this club and we have had a few!

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