April 21 AFC Bournemouth 2-1 Shrewsbury Town Att 7102

Last updated : 25 April 2003 By Ellis Griffin
The clement weather was no doubt a great relief to the Fun Day organisers, whose efforts last autumn had been washed out by almost horizontal rain. The only water to be seen this time around was coming from the sprinklers on the pitch. But would O'Driscoll's turf-watering ploy be successful against a team desperate for points to avoid dropping out of the league? Would Fortress Fitness First repel the invaders or deflate like a bouncy castle?

The latter appeared to be true once the game was underway. The back four looked jittery to say the least. First an underhit pass across the back from Phil Gulliver was easily intercepted by Jemson, but the much-travelled striker shot tamely at Moss. A lucky let-off. But then, with just six minutes on the clock, Neil Young dallied and dithered on the ball, allowing Aiston to dispossess him and beat Moss with some ease. 0-1 to the visitors.

Things improved a little after that, but the Shrews had a determined look about them and succeeded in closing us down pretty effectively. Scott McDonald, making his first start since joining the Cherries, looked quick and skilful up front, but the visitors' defence, particularly Dunbavin in goal, generally looked solid.

It took a good piece of skill by Garreth O'Connor, and a bit of luck, to bring us level. With about 22 minutes gone, the Irishman cleverly controlled the ball as it came down to beat a defender, ran at the Shrewsbury back line and threaded the ball through to McDonald, the pass finding its way to the Aussie striker via a somewhat fortuitous deflection. He still had a bit to do, however, and showed good strength and determination in getting his toe to the ball to beat the advancing Dunbavin. 1-1.

We were on top now and the visitors' keeper did well to block a Purches piledriver. The corner routine went awry as usual, and Wade Elliott should have done better when a Cummings cross found him at the far post.

However, with half-time approaching Elliott redeemed himself, but again not without an element of good fortune. Carl Fletcher hit a pass over the Shrews' defence for Elliott to run on to. The defenders appeared to have it covered, but Dunbavin lost his footing at the crucial moment (it worked!), allowing Elliott to collect the ball on the bye-line, scamper in on goal and tap in from all of 3 inches.

A killer blow and nearly the last kick of the half.

HT 2-1

We started the secondly half strongly and looked as if we might increase our lead. Elliott headed just over and it took an acrobatic save from Dunbavin to deny Gulliver. In between, Jagielka was booked for a foul on McDonald and the home crowd had some fun at the expense of Jemson who talked himself into a booking and continued berating the ref long after the incident. So much so that the manager was obliged to substitute him. And he was still remonstrating with the ref as he left the field. Not a Fun Day for him!

But that was about as entertaining as it got in the second half, as we began defending deeper and deeper. Eventually we had everyone back defending with the visitors camped in our half of the field. Watts put a header narrowly wide and then blazed over the bar when well placed. Moss was having one of his busier afternoons. Hayter replaced the tiring McDonald and Stock came on for an out-of-sorts O'Connor (although in fairness it was his first game back after injury), but we had given up all attacking intentions by now.

There were a few more nervous moments for the home crowd and, to make matters worse, with just a few minutes remaining, Supafletch (now permanently on defensive duty) had to leave the field with a shoulder injury to be replaced by Holmes.

The game ended on a rather unsavoury note with accusations of unsporting conduct being levelled at the visitors for not returning the ball to us after Moss had kicked it out to allow Big Fletch to receive treatment. But the overall feeling was one of relief.

Not pretty by any means, but three vital points. Nobody had a really bad game, but nobody was outstanding either. The defence looked uncertain at times, which is worrying. Gulliver is brave and strong, but still has to prove that he's good enough. Let's hope no-one else gets injured!

Scott McDonald, but he needs to be fitter.

: Moss, Young, Cummings, Gulliver, C.Fletcher, Purches, Browning, O’Connor (Stock 81), Elliott, McDonald (Hayter 74), S.Fletcher (Holmes 86)
Subs not used: Stewart, Thomas
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey