Feb 8 AFC Bournemouth 2-0 Wrexham Att: 5445

Last updated : 10 February 2003 By Ellis Griffin
We were without the influential Carl Fletcher (stomach bug) in central defence and the refs’ favourite Marcus Browning in midfield. So the promising but inexperienced Lewis Buxton joined the injury-carrying Karl Broadhurst and Jason Tindall in a back three, with Warren Cummings and Stephen Purches playing as wing backs. James Hayter dropped back to central midfield alongside Brian Stock and Garreth O’Connor, and, to popular acclaim, Warren Feeney made his first league start for ages, partnering the ageless Supa Fletch up front. It was reassuring, however, to have Neil Moss back between the sticks on a permanent signing, although Tardif could be considered very unlucky to lose his place.

All in all, an unaccustomed 3-5-2 with no place for Wade Elliott or Danny Thomas, arguably our most potent attacking options. Would it work?

Kicking towards the North Stand, we certainly opened the more brightly of the two teams and looked a pretty compact unit, with Hayter doing a good job man-marking Darren Ferguson, and Cummings and Purches getting forward to good effect. During one of his forays down the left flank, Cummings pulled the ball back for Feeney who set Hayter up with a shooting opportunity, but the ball flew wide of the far post. On the half-hour, Cummings went close himself when he dispossessed a defender on the edge of the box and a last-ditch tackle was needed to keep him out.

After a slightly hesitant start, the back three looked solid and kept the visitors’ attack comfortably at bay, the main threat coming from Edwards and Thomas on the wings. However, Sean O’Driscoll was forced to make a change after 33 minutes when Purches was unable to continue after getting a knock a few minutes earlier. Elliott came on to replace him and therefore play a more defensive role than usual.

As the interval approached, we were awarded a free kick a few yards in from the right corner flag which Cummings swung in left-footed. Tindall made a firm contact and ball seemed to be heading for the roof of the net. The home fans were preparing to celebrate, but the ball struck the crossbar and rebounded to safety. A goal would have been nothing more than we deserved, but it was the Robins who finished the half on the offensive with Supa having to concede a corner with a vital tackle.

HT 0-0

Having failed to score while we were on top, would we let the visitors into the game in the second period? Fortunately not, as we knocked in two within a five-minute spell early in the half. First, Stock took a short corner on the left, got the ball back and curled a right-footed cross into the six-yard box. Feeney flung himself forward and the ball ended up in the far corner of the net.

Yessss! The striker will naturally claim it, but if he touched the ball it was the merest brush of an eyebrow….but who cares?

Then just three minutes later, Elliott received the ball wide on the right, crossed perfectly on the run and Feeney was airborne at the far post to power the ball into the roof of the net for 2-0. Who said we needed to be attacking the North Stand in the second half? The glacial cold and tumbleweed of the car-park end will clearly do just as well…

As the game wore on, Wrexham unsurprisingly came into it more, prompted by their useful 6’7" defender Lawrence, and showed that they are a skilful side. But our defence still looked solid, despite the fact that Broadhurst was clearly struggling with his ankle at times. Feeney was still causing problems at the other end, even though he appeared to be tiring.

In the end, we looked pretty comfortable, although Moss capped a faultless performance by holding on to a fiercely-struck cross shot by Edwards. Feeney should have completed his first ever hat-trick at senior level when, in the dying moments of the game, Cummings got to the bye-line and pulled the ball back into his path. With only Dibble to beat, the Cherries’ striker hit the ball firmly enough, but the keeper spread himself to smother the shot.

A vital 3 points that keeps our promotion challenge on track, but the manner of the win was also very pleasing. Despite the unfamiliar formation, everyone did their job well against a strong and skilful side. The midfield battled hard, and Hayter appeared to relish playing in the "hole" behind the front two. And Feeney duly repaid the fans’ faith in him. Bring on Swansea!

Difficult to call in what was above all an excellent team performance, but I’ll say Elliott for showing he can defend as well as attack.

AFCB: Moss, Broadhurst Tindall, Buxton, Cummings, Stock, O’Connor (Holmes 89), Hayter, Purches (Elliott 33), S.Fletcher, Feeney.
Subs not used: Tardif, Thomas, Foyewa
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey