Judging by the number of Exiles patronising The Green pub before the game, it was apparent that the away support would be a force to be reckoned with. Indeed there must have been 800 odd in the Upper Tier of the away end. The early talking point was the relegation of Wade Elliott to the bench. With captain Eddie Howe returning after suspension, this was the only change compared to the side that finished the Huddersfield game. For the first few minutes we nervously checked our watches until the dreaded "early goal" time had elapsed, but then settled down to watch a very confident and committed display by the team. Our midfield trio of Carl Fletcher, Richard Hughes and Brian Stock were tenacious, passed the ball well and soon began to control the game. Although we weren't creating many chances, we were stopping QPR from posing any serious threat at the other end. Defences, as they say, were on top. Rangers' Shittu (presumable named after the kind of building he resembles) was something of an immovable object, but Holmes was doing well. Warren Feeney's pace was as constant threat and everyone was quick to close down QPR players. Our flat back four of Karl Broadhurst, Jason Tindall, Eddie and Steve Purches were not seriously troubled, with the home side restricted to a few inept long-range efforts.
So it was very much against the run of play when the Hoops took the lead ten minutes before half time. Broadhurst committed an unnecessary foul near the touchline and Peacock's free-kick was nodded feebly into the net at the near post by Palmer. (Andy Smith reckoned his nan could have saved it!).
However, despite this setback, heads didn't drop and team ran off the pitch to loud applause from the away end when the ref blew the half-time whistle.
After the break, our dominance increased still further and we looked more like play-off contenders than our hosts. Hayter began to prosper down the left wing and it was from one of his crosses that we scored a well-deserved equaliser five minutes into the second half. After a neat build-up, Feeney outjumped his marker at the far post to plant a firm header past Digby. The Upper Tier went berserk and Feeney celebrated with them.
QPR rallied, but we refused to go onto the back foot and hold on for a draw. We came agonisingly close to scoring a winner when a Holmes shot on the turn and an Eddie header were tipped round the post by the keeper. (I think that was what happened – the lower half of the goal is obscured from view in the Upper Tier). Anyway, it was a close thing. And Carl Fletcher created a good chance for himself when got past a defender inside the box, but sliced his shot wide. Bignot was lucky to escape with a yellow card when he pulled Feeney back on the edge of the area. There were a few alarms at the other end, but nothing too heart-stopping. We continued to get the better of it and the home fans were very subdued.
Near the end Hayter was badly injured after colliding with Digby, who sportingly tried to attract the ref's attention (as play was allowed to go on) when he realised the seriousness of the injury. Hayter was stretchered off to be replaced by Elliott. Rangers tried to snatch a late winner, but our defence held out. Richard Hughes was unlucky to be red-carded after what looked like a fair tackle was apparently interpreted by the ref as a two-footed lunge. In the last hectic minutes, Maher replaced Stock to bolster the defence for the final onslaught.
At the end we celebrated as if we'd won. I was certainly one of the best away performance I've seen for some time. But we'll need to produce this kind of form consistently now if we are to keep clear of the drop zone. Perhaps Stewart can get a few tips from Andy Smith's nan…..
AFC Bournemouth: Stewart, Tindall, Howe (c), Broadhurst, C Fletcher, Hughes, Hayter (Elliott 86), Purches, Stock (Maher 90), Feeney, Holmes
Subs not used: Eribenne, O'Connor, Smith
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey