Jan 21 LDV Vans Trophy Southern QF AFC Bournemouth 1-3 Bristol City Att: 5125

Last updated : 04 February 2003 By Phil Nesbitt
Unfortunately I was proved correct.

From the start of the match it was clear that both teams were up for it and were going to play football on the deck. city looked slick and tended to play more through the middle than us but we did not look outclassed. The match was generally end to end, a good cup tie. AFCB took the lead in the 16th minute when a precision Stock corner was met by a thumping header by Carl Fletcher who has taken over Eddie's role as our battering ram from set pieces.

Whilst the football continued to be nip and tuck and of good quality it was the refereeing that took centre stage. Browning was booked for not retreating from a free kick that he had given away. As he was walking away and the ball was kicked against him quite what he was supposed to do and where he was in the wrong is still incomprehensible to me and probably all Bournemouth fans present. Carl Fletcher was correctly booked for an ugly dive in and City's Carey was also booked for a poor tackle. Narada was then booked for a completely innocuous challenge on Scott Murray (a very good player but unpleasant character on the pitch) with no intent and minimal contact if any made the most of by the City wide player. Whilst Mr Hill was unnecessarily dealing with this Browning and Butler were (according to my sources) involved in a tussle and head to head eyeballing in the box as they got ready for the imminent free kick. An assistant referee, from the far side of the pitch, trotted on to help sort things out as did the other players, Murray appeared to be involved, and Browning sustained a gash above the eye. Mr Hill could not have seen the incident as he was booking Narada and consulted with the aforementioned assistant. The upshot was a booking for both protagonists and so Browning had to depart due to his earlier booking. The North Stand faithful sang and whistled their disapproval of the refs decision. I'm claiming an Arsene as I did not see what happened but as Browning had a bad wound he appears to be the sinned against party although he was foolish to respond if that was the case. Nothing came of the free kick and we led at half time.

The second half continued much as the first and for us Elliott was running at his full back, Mickey Bell so good quality, and getting much joy and providing good crosses. The turning point, however, was the sending off of Butler for his second bookable offence. Feeney was racing through their defence and butler just stepped backwards into his path. Feeney might have realised this and run into him but a booking was correct and so we had 10 v 10.

This seemed to focus the minds of the City players, and no doubt the extra space helped, as they were soon level. A Murray cross was met on the volley by Bell about 15 yards out and the ball flashed past Tardif before he could really move. A quality finish. 9 minutes later in the 78th he scored a second and complete fluke. A cross from the left cleared Tardif, no fault to him as he was correctly guarding his near post, and went in off the far post. Further bookings to Stock and Feeney and City's Doherty, who had a poor evening, followed as we stepped up the tempo for an equaliser. Thomas, Hayter and fletch came on for Narada, Stock and Feeney. In the dieing moments Hayter spun in the box and was brought down by Fortune but the ref indicated that he played the ball. As the only way he could have done this was by going through James this was an error on Mr Hill's part and of course City broke away up the other end and the snidy Murray scored their third. Hayter approached the ref before the kick off with arms held outstretched in disbelief. For him to remonstrate so openly suggests that it was a penalty.

Despite the unsympathetic (and unempathetic) refereeing this was still a good match to watch. As their manager Danny Wilson put it 'Sean and myself can't be too happy with one or two decisions as there were no bad tackles out there - after two hours of rain on the pitch people are going to go ground at times but nobody was hurt'. A good assessment from an honest manager.

We were not outplayed but, as is too often the case, we lost out in the goal scoring department. If Alan Connell had stayed fit where would we be now?!

Man of the match has to be Wade Elliott for his many direct runs which even troubled a good division two full back who could easily play at a higher level.

I was requested to do this match report at half time hence the lack of detail as I had no pen and paper. At least this was a half earlier than my last report which was at Wrexham. As we lost that one 3-2 and this one 3-1 should we need to lose the last match of the season 3-0 then I'm your man. Can only think that this could be useful for play off advantage but let's hope that it doesn't come to that.

AFCB: Tardif, S Purches, Narada (Thomas 82), C Fletcher, Tindall, Elliott, Browning, Stock (Hayter 82), O'Connor, Holmes, Feeney (S Fletcher 82)
Subs (un unsed): Foyewa J Purches
Phil Nesbitt, Reading