In front of Dean Court’s biggest league gate of the season so far, the game got off to a frantic start. After a mere ten seconds and following a nasty clash of heads between Kermit and Clint Hill, the match was held up for four minutes in order for the latter to receive treatment. It failed to disrupt the visitors rhythm, however, as once the game restarted it was Rangers who were quicker into their stride, with Lee Camp being forced into smart saves, first from a rasping drive from Jenas, and then from Morrison (and, sorry, can anyone explain why he was wearing gloves in April?).
At this stage it really looked like the proverbial men v boys, with the millionaires from West London looking to perhaps win comfortably, with the home side in danger of being overrun. Simon Francis, in particular looked shaky, giving the impression that he might be overwhelmed during these early exchanges and was caught out more than once, giving the ball away in dangerous positions.
It took fully twenty minutes for the Cherries to get into their stride and create their first opportunity, but Matt Ritchie failed to connect properly following a sweet and flowing move involving Andy Surnam, Harry Arter and Lewis Grabban. This was, however, the catalyst for the team to begin to show the confidence that served them so well in recent weeks, with Ritchie and Grabban chancing their luck, and Kermit firing a fierce drive straight at Rob Green who knew little about it. Surnam, meanwhile, may have felt hard done by on another occasion as he was on the receiving end of a somewhat agricultural challenge in the area that the referee chose to ignore. In reality, the visitors were not frightened to tackle aggressively, and a number of the challenges flying in raised an eyebrow or two from this observer.
With the fourth official indicating four minutes of stoppage time, the Cherries forced a corner. Ian Harte swung it over with that sweet left peg and the Rangers defence failed to deal with it as Tommy Elphick came through a ruck of players to head powerfully into the back of the net.
Half time: Cherries one, Rangers nil.
As the second half got under way, any thoughts of consolidating and building upon the first half performance were promptly wiped out as Rangers equalized after a mere fifteen seconds. Francis was outsmarted by Traore who controlled a cross field pass and found the net from a tight angle.
Heads didn’t drop, however, as Bournemouth responded by taking the game to the visitors. Andy Surrnam was beginning to control the game, and after having tested Green with another driven effort, put the ball into the box for Kermit on the hour, Hill made an absolute Horlicks of the attempted clearance and there was Grabban to bundle the ball into the net for possibly his ugliest goal of the season.
The match might have changed as a contest when, just a few minutes later, Harry Arter who had been playing superbly all afternoon, was adjudged to have lunged at Hoilett. Reputations counting as they do in football, the referee saw fit to immediate brandish the red card. Harry Redknapp decided to go for broke by bringing on Benayoun to add a creative spark in an attempt to take advantage of the extra man; Eddie immediately sacrificed Kermit, bringing on O’Kane to shore up the gap in midfield.
Matt Ritchie made way for Ryan Fraser for the last fifteen minutes, and his one real run of note saw a superb break down the middle and a finely weighted ball to Grabban who perhaps took one touch too many and struck a ferocious drive into Green’s body. In fairness, the former England man saw it early and was quick to close down the angle. Ian Harte was cautioned for protesting over the referee’s failure to do anything other than award a free kick for an extraordinarily high boot on Fraser that might have done some serious damage to the little Scot’s head.
The Cherries seemed to be content to defend what they had and allowed QPR to come on to them, but all too often they floundered on that first man, as we defended as if we thought our lives depended on it. As the game ticked over the ninety minute mark the board went up showing five minutes added time. Eddie then played his last card in that fifth minute. In what can only have been an attempt to disrupt the rhythm of the game, he made his final change, bringing on Brett Pitman for Marc Pugh as Rangers had a corner. Green came marauding forward as the ball was swung over and Dunne, who had a poor game, somehow got on the end of it and arrowed a header towards the top near corner of the goal, only to see Pitman throw himself at it and clear the danger. Not a bad 23 second contribution!
As Lee Camp took the goal kick, the referee has seen enough and blew for full time. This was a truly magnificent match in which both goalkeepers were on the top of their respective game. The Cherries performance was a phenomenal team effort and certainly a well deserved three points. Those watching the game being broadcast live around the world were certainly served up a fantastic treat. Those at Dean Court, meanwhile, were left exhausted just by being there.
The dream lives on. Bring on the Royals!
For the manner in which he marshalled the defence and scored the all important opening goal, Tommy Elphick.
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Elphick, Cook, Harte, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh, Kermorgant, Grabban
Subs: Allsop, Smith, Ward, Rantie, O'Kane (for Kermorgant, 70 mins), Fraser (for Ritchie, 74 mins), Pitman (for Pugh, 96 mins)
Dave Linsay, South Woodham Ferrers