For this latest six-pointer Sean unsurprisingly opted to start with the same line-up that had performed so well at Hartlepool. Scunthorpe had slightly the better of the opening exchanges, forcing a few early corners which were dealt with varying degrees of conviction by the Cherries’ defence, and Young did well clearing a dangerous low cross from the lively Sparrow. The first real chance fell to the visitors however when the ball broke to Hayter following an exchange of passes on the edge of the area, but the Scunthorpe ‘keeper Evans blocked the shot.
Bournemouth gradually settled into their game and started to create more openings. A great diagonal ball from Cummings was nodded down by Fletch the Elder but Browning just failed to control, and a thumping drive from Cummings from the old favourite corner routine went just over the bar before inflicting collateral damage on the face of a Scunthorpe supporter behind the goal. Our back four was looking fairly comfortable against the tall but pedestrian Scunthorpe forwards, and Moss had little to do in the half apart from a few punches and tidying up the occasional scramble in the area. The half finished with a quick Bournemouth breakaway which required a last ditch tackle to deny Elliott a scoring chance. So far so good, and things were about to get much better.
O’Connor was replaced by Thomas at half-time, the Irishman having picked up a nasty gash to his ankle which required stitches. We started the second half a little slowly and Moss was called on to make his first serious saves of the game, including another Hartlepool-style tip-over from Robert Taylor’s shot. Fortunately before Scunthorpe could build on this momentum we scored. Cummings crossed, Steve Fletcher won the ball in the air at the back post and picked out Hayter, who reacted quicker than his marker and placed a perfect header beyond Evans’ reach. A well-deserved moment of glory for a player whose contribution to the side often outweighs that of some of the crowd favourites. Minutes later he was narrowly denied a second opportunity by a last ditch tackle.
Another player who has had to put with more than his fair share of criticism was also having a good afternoon. Danny Thomas seemed to lose the inclination to tackle part-way through the season, but on the evidence of recent outings he has it back now. At one stage he combined with Steve Fletcher to win possession on the left and was thwarted by a good save from Evans.
Scunthorpe’s increasing frustration was reflected in some of their tackling. Referee Leake’s obvious reluctance to book anyone earlier in the game contributed to the problem and he was finally forced to act in the 61st minute when Hayter (who was the most frequent target ) was scythed down from behind by McCombe. From the resulting free kick our friend Mr. O.G. almost made a welcome reappearance, but Evans saved a glancing header from a Scunthorpe defender.
Scunthorpe brought on Martin Carruthers to bolster their attack, but he had little impact on the rock-solid Buxton and Carl Fletcher at the heart of the Cherries’ defence, and with 15 minutes to go Thomas effectively sealed the game. Following a quick break from defence he easily outpaced a defender to a ball down the left and rolled the ball with great precision past the advancing Evans from the angle of the penalty area. Like John Bailey at Wembley it was on of those enjoyable situations when you know that you’re going to score several seconds before the ball ends up in the net.
We played out time quite professionally with Fletch playing the wily old pro, directing the ball to areas where Scunthorpe had to waste valuable time retrieving it. In contrast the once excellent Peter Beagrie decided to play the irritable old git. Fortunate on several occasions to escape a booking for his increasingly desperate attempts to stop Elliott and for attempting to tell the officials their job, he eventually picked up an overdue yellow card and a minute later compounded that by kicking Young following a sliding tackle by the full back (who had marked him out of the game) to earn another yellow and exit the proceedings. Just what you need from your player coach in stoppage time with the game already lost.
Back up to third place despite some good results from others in the chasing pack, and we may just be running into some sort of form at the right time. Must get new batteries for the radio before we go to Carlisle.
AFCB (4-4-2): Moss; Young, C. Fletcher, Buxton, Cummings; Elliott, Purches, Browning, O’Connor; Hayter, S. Fletcher.
Subs: Thomas (O’Connor 45), McDonald (Hayter 88), Gulliver (S. Fletcher 89), Stewart, Eribenne.
Richard Barker Leyton