However, the much better resourced City were made to look a very tame outfit as the Cherries’ midfield trio of Browning, Stock and Baby Fletch took firm command early on and rarely relinquished it. We should have scored after a couple of minutes when Deadly Derek found himself in a shooting position barely 6 yards out but dragged his shot wide.
City were finding it hard to get out of their own half, much to the frustration of their captain, the fiery Doherty, who was clearly heading for a booking. Wade Elliott continued his good form of late with clever footwork and dangerous crosses from the right – one of which was nearly turned into his own net by the panicking central defender, Fortune.
And so the one-way traffic continued, with the home side winning a succession of corners and Phillips in the visitor’s goal forced to tip headers from Howe and Browning over the bar and a low shot from Cummings round the post.
At the other end, the only chance City managed to create was when Eddie Howe slipped and presented Heffernan with an opportunity. However, Broadhurst managed to fling himself in the way, injuring himself in the process.
The Cherries deservedly took the lead after 38 minutes when, from yet another corner from Stock on the right, Baby Fletch rose to head the ball goalwards. It wasn’t a brilliant header and failed to reach the back of the net, but both Phillips and the defender on the line seemed mesmerised by it and the goal was given.
The only reply from City was from a long-range effort by Orr which Mossie spectacularly tipped round the post.
The second half was a rather more even affair with City pushing more men forward and working harder to close us down. However, they were still failing to click as a unit and, as their frustration grew, Doherty received his inevitable booking. From the resulting free-kick (moved forward another 10 yards) Baby Fletch nearly doubled his tally with a thunderbolt shot inches over the bar.
For the visitors, Murray looked dangerous but Cummings cleared the danger. Then our defence were totally unprepared as City took a quick corner which, fortunately came to nothing.
However, it was the Cherries who still looked more likely to score, as Wader continued to sparkle down the right flank. One of his crosses nearly produced the Goal of the Season when James Hayter hooked the ball acrobatically goalwards only to see it narrowly miss the far post.
Nothing seemed to be going right for City. This was epitomised when one of their players mistakenly caught a throw in from a team mate instead of controlling it with some other part of his anatomy! How we laughed!
However, Neil Young’s ricket a few minutes later (77) was no laughing matter, as it gifted the visitors a goal that their play scarcely deserved. Instead of clearing a ball over the top, Younger dithered and was dispossessed by Lita who smashed the ball past Moss.
Despite this setback, we continued where we had left off, with Connell replacing a somewhat dejected Homer. After continuous pressure, we deservedly regained the lead in the 88th minute. This time Wader surprisingly popped up on the left wing and crossed for Hayter to head home virtually unchallenged.
With only a couple of minutes left on the clock, this looked like the winner. The City fans clearly thought so as they streamed towards the exit. When the fourth official (somewhat prematurely, it has to be said) indicated 3 minutes to be added on, we thought we were nearly there. But despite pleas from SOD and ROK to push out, we started to defend far too deep and allowed the visitors to come at us. And, inevitably, with almost the last kick of the game City scored an equaliser when Smith toe-ended the ball in off the far post.
The result was all the more disappointing in that we had mostly outplayed a team whose budget we cannot match and which are highly fancied for promotion this term. We will play half as well as this and win games I’m sure.
AFCB: Moss, Young, Broadhurst, Howe, Cummings, C.Fletcher, Stock (Rowe 88), Browning, Elliott (Maher 90), Hayter, Holmes (Connell 79)
Subs not used: Stewart, Coutts
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey