Sat. a.m., found some other Bournemouth fans at breakfast, & a Lincoln fan. I was very apprehensive pre-match, & didn't go to any pub. Up at the piazza, at the South End (!) of the ground, Mick C. took my photo with the ground behind me, my 32-year-old red'n'black scarf held aloft. I take it to winter matches as it's so long & warm, & to big matches like this for sentimental reasons. I'd had a smaller scarf from Ted Macdougall's shop in Boscombe; my mother went into the Boscombe Co-op & picked up some black wool, then asked for "some of that red wool, please". The assistant said, "No, you need that red wool". "How do you know?" "'Cos you're knitting a football scarf for your son." The first time ever, I'd bought items over the Internet – the XXL Millennium shirt (would it be big enough?) & the new AFCB baseball cap – from the club shop. Claire was a bit concerned so I didn't wear them on the Friday night but togged up for the day.
Mick said what a good job the SO'D had done with the team, & that SO'D & Alexander were probably the 2 most honest managers in the division.
I kept Andy B. company while he waited to distribute tickets to Exiles such as me, then wandered back to the hotel about 1330. I said to Claire I just wanted the match over & done with, & she went shopping. The street were filled with Boscombe fans – seemingly 5:1 against Lincoln. All streets around the ground were closed, & the piazza was swarming with red'n'black. Our tickets were checked by stewards just as heavy rain fell. The steward said, "Welcome to Wales"; I replied that I came from the Neath Valley where we had proper rain, not this drizzle. I was hanging around with Graham, & wasn't very conversational, until we went up into the seats. My mouth dropped; the stadium is quite magnificent, & with the closed roof my first thought was, "baseball". The top tier was almost empty, but we all filled it with noise – a record crowd for the Div.3 final there.
The pre-match songs helped; when Imps started up their "Hey Jude" version, I went over to Gordon & we sang, "La la la la, Keith East!" Nerves settled a bit once the match started, & our display suited it - superb football, quality goals, we rose up to Cloud 9 & beyond. I found myself next to "Donnie Dave", & wondering if it would go to penalties when suddenly Supa latched onto a Browning headed flick & it was in the net! Explosion of celebration! In time added on the ball was cleared by Lincoln & I felt O'Connor was too slow in retrieving the ball (wishing it had been Cummings) but what a neat chip, & what a run by the skipper, & what a great feeling we had with 2-1 at the break.
Imps never shirked, but when we needed a 3rd it came - & we'll talk about it into our dotage. I'm so glad for Purches the elder; always consistent, Mr. Utility, beavering away behind the scenes. Quite the best move of the season, quick, accurate, committed, by each participant, & we began to really believe. Suddenly, the Irishman decides to show everyone what he can do, takes on the entire defence & puts it away calm as you like. This was just incredible – belief, skill, dominance like we've hardly seen this season. Two lads beside me were still munching at burgers & sipping Coke, seemingly unconcerned, while Dave & me were going mental! We have to be concerned about being pegged back to 1-1 & 4-2, but at least Lincoln played with pride. Then straight away we went nap, & who better to round it off than the skipper himself, POTY – 5-2 was like all your birthdays & Christmases rolled onto one. Now we could party! And how!
About the football itself, I note that 4 of the 5 goals came from the striker getting in front of his marker. The skipper made the extra man for his 2. Continued weakness to be addressed: 2 goals conceded from set pieces.
All deserve prizes, especially the following:
James Hayter – strong, dealing with a rifled pass from midfield by just calmly using chest & thigh while holding off his marker & bringing others into play; & a splendid link in the 3rd goal: an intelligent run, control & pass.
Stephen Purches – the unsung hero, a deserved goal, a magnificent lung-bursting run spotlighted on Sky. That's when we knew we'd win. Immense support work all over the pitch.
Garreth O'Connor – great movement & passing. I note it was a right-footed chip for the 2nd & final goals - & a right-foot dummy & left-foot shot in one move (really a pass into the net across the goalie) for the 4th.
Warren Cummings – he's taken AFCB to heart, the first to the fans at the final whistle. Bursting runs allow O'Connor to come inside & do subtle damage. As Youngy doesn't have the legs now, we need Wade wide right, but frankly Thomas gets in Warren's way on the left.
SupaFletch – surprised us all with his goal, ran towards his family then did a Ravanelli with his shirt. Played out of his skin across the play-offs – never seen him so comfortable on the ball; had the beating of any no.5, sure of touch (e.g. to Hayter for the 3rd v. Bury, & to O'Connor for the 4th v. Lincoln) & his own strike.
Above all, CF – Captain Fantastic – leading from front & back. By coming up for dead-balls he made the extra man & was not picked up. Jan 2001 he was sent off home to Gills (FAC3); I said at the time if he learned from that he'd go far. Makeshift defence & patched-up midfield grew together over last 5-6 games; that line-up won us promotion & had the balls to perform on the big stage. So what does SOD do now? Change the line-up? We lost points on bad pitches – I'd suggest, for poor pitches, change the line-up & tactics to turn losses into draws. We're stuck with him & Grant now… In fairness, with such a young squad the management team must've had something to do with the players going for it on the day & not bottling, so let's give credit where it's due.
5-2 - a record for the Div.3 final at Cardiff. 5-2, beyond our wildest dreams. Phil N. seemed rooted to the spot, open-mouthed, not believing his eyes. Coming out into the light, bumping into so many old friends, all dazed & almost in disbelief – this is good old Boscombe, how can it be this good? I put my scarf over my head & my cap over it, & strolled back to the hotel through all those Boscombe fans looking like they'd had a packet-full of wacky baccy. I tapped on the door of our room; Claire opened it to see this crazily grinning 6' 5"-tall apparition with cap & scarf draped all over, leaning on the corridor wall… She says she'll treasure that look for ages.
Within 10 minutes we were 2 doors down the road in the Cottage; the full set of Brains beers inside me within the hour. Cherries & Imps (the latter a bit quiet) together; I said to one Imp that he'd done his lot proud. He commented that our lot had often been quiet but his lot has kept singing. That was the key to the day; their manager had implied, as this fan had done, that just getting there was the achievement, whereas we were there for business. No disrespect to Lincoln – a great set of fans & a team that kept trying – but on the day we just did the business on & off the pitch.
Then a Portuguese meal just down the road, & into the Glassworks pub for a post-prandial of High Speed Death! (St. Austell Hicks Special Draught, 5%) Still not much sleep, but who cared?
I did manage to check the programme; P.33, picture of Boscombe fans away, including at least one Nesbitt, Gordon, Andy B, & yours truly; I suspect it was at Stoke as the teams came out, 'cos Gordon was still smiling (!)
Sunday morning – Claire's birthday (Amsterdam '98, Paris last year, Cardiff this) - breakfast with no voice, but somehow a chat with the Exiles from Darlo. Down the M4 to Neath for the usual hotel lunch with brother Keith & his wife Linda then back to theirs for the night. Monday - return via the Hare & Hounds, Pickwick, Corsham (west of Chippenham), now run by a young couple we know who used to run various London pubs. Conviviality overflowed… Home again, opened the Observer waiting for us in the porch. It reported that we'd beaten Lincoln 5-2 – wow! Must've been some game! Was I there? Really?
My voice is still ragged - much lubrication has yet to soothe it!
La la la la la, 5-2, 5-2!
Peter Wicks, Greenford