Just before the match kicked off, the two teams, were announced to the fans, with the biggest cheer reserved for Lewis Grabban, who had earlier announced that he was staying at the Club, having signed a new deal to keep him at Dean Court for the next three and a half years! Just the tonic the Cherries were after after days of intense speculation.
As for the match itself, that started relatively quietly with few opportunities for both sides as they both tried to find their way in to the game. In fact it took until the 11th minute for the first shot to be produced (from Simon Francis) and that was easily blocked.
What struck me throughout this match is the transformation the Cherries have undergone in a relatively short space of time. Back in August, the Cherries were given a rude awakening on their first away match as Watford dished out a comprehensive 6-1 drubbing. This time round, anything but as the Cherries more than match their opponents throughout, and if anything dominated for long spells. Key to this transformation is the outstanding work rate being put in by Eunan O'Kane, who simply runs his heart out, covering every blade on the pitch twice over whether it's his defensive game, tackling back, pushing forward, or simply being in support of his colleagues.
As both sides pressed, neither could really find a way through as both cancelled each other out. A combination of some poor passing, and some great tackling was evident.
The best Cherries chance came on the half hour when excellent build up play saw Matt Ritchie unleash a shot, which went out for a corner.
Lee Camp was called in to action just affter the half hour mark when a Battochio shot took a slight deflection, which could have caught Camp out, but he managed to adjust his positioning to get down low to his right to divert the ball past the post for a corner.
A guilt edged chance was gloriously wasted by Marc Pugh was set up by Surman. Sadly for all concerned, Pugh managed to spoon the ball high and over the cross bar when it might have been easier to hit the target!!
The break through did eventually come right on the stroke of half time when the Cherries conceded a needless free kick, level with the top of the penalty area, over towards the away fans in the East Stand. McGuigan took the free kick, which saw Angella rise above everyone else to head Watford ahead. So frustrating as the Cherries play hadn't deserved to be 1-down at the break.
If the first half was quiet, then in comparison, the second half was a far more lively affair!
Watford tried to double their advantage, but failed to do so, despite dominating the early possession winning a couple of corners in the process.
Ritchie unleashed one of his rasping shots, only to see it sail wide of the mark in the 49th minute.
The equaliser wasn't long in coming as the Cherries were awarded a penalty for a foul on Lewis Grabban. Even though the penalty was awarded in the 59th minute, it took until the 62nd minute to take it once the whinging/argueing Watford players had finished harrassing the match officials. Their protests were not helped when the ref dismissed Angella for alledgely bringing Grabban down in the first place. To be fair, Aneglla did look a little perplexed by the decision to send him off, especially as he wasn't anywhere near the incident to start with! An appeal might be going to have that decision reversed!!
Anyway, after the lengthy delay, man-of-the-moment Lewis Grabban duely stepped up to score the penalty.
This just spurned the Cherries on to press home their advantage which almost came just 10 minutes later. This time Almunia in the Watford goal was adjudged to have brought down Marc Pugh after he was given a slide rule pass to set him free of the Watford defence - much to the displeasure of the Watford fans one of which threw a smoke bomb on to the pitch! Grabban stepped up to take the penalty, which was saved, the resulting follow up was also saved (from Ritchie), as was the next follow up attempt (from O'Kane) in a remarkable passage of play!
By this time, the Cherries had their bit between the teeth to press home their man advantage. Sadly it wasn't to be despite numberous chances to do so. The best opportunity to bag a winner came in the 6th minute if 7 minutes of injury time when a rasping shot from Matt Ritchie faily stung Almunia's fingers, that after Rantie had set Ritchie up in the first place.
How the Cherries didn't win this match in the end is beyond me, but to the Cherries credit we more than battled and more than held our own against a side that more than stuff us back in August.
As for man of the match, there were several good individual performances across the pitch, but the man who stood out for me was Eunan O'Kane, who has matured nicely this season having looked a bit out of sorts, and maybe out of his depth, at the beginning of the season - but no more though!
AFCB: Camp, Francis, Elphick, Ward, Daniels, Ritchie, O'Kane, Surman, Arter, Pugh, Grabban
Subs: Allsop, Cook, Harte, MacDonald, Fraser, Rantie (for Surman, 78 mins), Pitman (for Pugh, 78)
Andy Burton, Portsmouth