Dec 31 Southend United 2-1 AFC Bournemouth Att: 6357

Last updated : 03 January 2006 By Dave Linsay
The Cherries lined up in an unchanged side and the early exchanges certainly looked promising as they took the game to the home side. Half chances fell at either end but nobody seemed able to get the decisive touch that would see the keeper get his hands dirty.

Good efforts from James Hayter and Steve Fletcher both flew narrowly wide, but in the twelfth minute Bournemouth survived an almost comical moment. Gareth Stewart opted for the quick release and threw the ball out between two defenders, neither of whom was looking. Eastwood nipped in and stole the ball and his shot cannoned back off the post with the rebound hit wide of the target.

The game turned in the twentieth minute. A long, hopeful through ball was played and caught the Bournemouth defence somewhat flat footed. Wayne Gray bore down on the goal with Neil Young in close attendance but the Cherries captain seemed to clip Gray's heels. The initial contact appeared to be outside the box but the referee seemed to have no doubt and awarded a penalty. Young did not even bother waiting for the card to be shown and Gray sent Stewart the wrong way from the spot.

Bournemouth reorganised by simply playing with the three remaining defenders across the back with Brian Stock sitting in a slightly deeper role that usual in front of them. The goal seemed to give the home side a boost and they enjoyed their best period of the game, but the defence stood firm and, in truth, restricted Southend to few clear sights of goal and shots from distance.

HT: 1-0

The half time interval revitalised Bournemouth and a far more dynamic and energetic performance saw them play some neat football, maintaining possession, taking the game to Southend and frustrating them at every opportunity. A succession of chances fell to James Hayter and Drew Surman, but neither could get the telling touch.

On the hour Sean rang the first change, replacing the strangely subdued Steve Fletcher for Dani and almost immediately the decision paid dividends as he found himself in acres of space at the back of the box, but his shot was straight at the keeper. In truth, having just come on and with the ball squirming all the way through to him, he could be forgiven for not having done more.

The breakthrough came on seventy minutes. A typically strong, surging run down the left from James O'Connor saw a ball played in short to the near post and there was Steve Foley coming off his own flank to drill the ball across the keeper from the tightest of angles and in at the far post.

Three minutes later we saw the last of Drew Surman in a Bournemouth shirt (at least for the time being) as he limped off the pitch to be replaced by Steve Purches.

Just as it began to look as if Bournemouth might go on to clinch all three points as Southend began to wilt alarmingly, Gutteridge stepped up to drive a sublime shot from outside the area that left Stewart little chance to grasp anything but air.

Sean played his final card, bringing on Eddie Howe for Browning after eighty four minutes, but it was too little, too late and the Cherries went home empty handed.

This was never going to be an easy game, with Southend enjoying their best start to a season for many years (if ever) and to play for seventy minutes a man down was possibly asking too much. The performance and the spirit that the team showed, however, was a credit to the club, players and management and at the end of the day we can consider ourselves very hard done by and unlucky to come away with nothing.

Trivia Time: when was the last occasion that a side managed to get through four captains in a game? Before today, that is? (Young sent off; Fletcher and Browning substituted and Stock who managed to last the ninety minutes).

Man Of The MatchA difficult one to call this week as it was a good all round team performance. I am, however, going to give it to Steve Foley for his energetic display throughout the game both in defence and attack.

AFCB: Stewart, Young, Hart, O'Connor, Cooper, Browning, Stock, Surman, Foley, Fletcher, Hayter
Subs: Moss, Howe (on for Browning, 84), Putman, Rodrigues (on for Fletcher, 60), Purches (on for Surman, 73)

Dave Linsay, Chelmsford