Forget the clichés about taking positives out of a match; with this one there were few negatives.
In two changes from the Swindon game, Bradbury returned to the right wing – the exact same position he’d played at Griffin Park so, presumably, a deliberate tactic to handle Brentford’s left back. Ings made his home debut up front, a fitting reward for his efforts in previous games as well as for his sterling work at Dorchester. This required a minor reshuffle: Pugh moving up front, where he looked slightly out of sorts, and Feeney switching to the left, where he looked pretty sharp. The Cherries totally dominated the first quarter of an hour, despite the near 1000 visiting fans outsinging the home fans, with scoring opportunities for Pugh in the first minute and Bradbury in the second. A couple of minutes later, an excellent cross from Pugh found Ings, who missed his chance – but at least he was in the right place – and this was followed by the most farcical moment of the match, when the ball went out of play and no-one could find another! (There were no ball-boys in evidence, and in the end someone fetched another ball from the changing rooms whilst fans sang “We’ve only got one ball!”)
Keeping up the pressure, Robinson saw his long shot from 40 yards pipped over the crossbar by the Brentford keeper. From the resultant corner, taken by Wiggins (despite claims on other websites that it was Pugh!), the ball flew into a fairly crowded goalmouth, and was flicked on for Feeney to head home from the back post. 1-0, genuine delight on the faces of all the Bournemouth players, and at last the home crowd came alive. But on the quarter hour mark a shot from a Brentford corner bounced off the top of the net, and this marked a change in fortune with the teams more evenly balanced for the remainder of the first half. Apart from one excellent run from Feeney, leading to a perfect pass to Ings from which a more experienced striker would surely have scored, there was not much more to report until the very stroke of half time. Then Brentford had their best scoring opportunity of the first 45 minutes. Alexander’s shot sailed over the crossbar, despite him having an empty goalmouth to aim at. Sighs of relief from home fans, as who knows how a goal at that point might have changed the outcome of the match?
No team changes were made at half time, and we won three corners in the next ten minutes. We then had what looked like a borderline offside ruling against either Bradbury or Ings when both were clear. Meanwhile, Brentford seemed to be getting desperate – MacDonald twice diving in the area to try and gain a penalty but not being booked for either. Then on the hour mark Fletcher, despite having played a full ninety minutes just two days earlier, came on for Pugh – giving the team a much better shape and meaning we had two strikers with 20 years’ age difference between them – or, to put it another way, one more than double the age of the other! Fletcher immediately started ordering Ings about, though there was little evidence that he really needed it. Three minutes later MacDonald (the diver) headed the ball goalwards and Jalal somehow managed to turn in mid-air to parry it round the post to his right. It was a brilliant save, but Shwan was less fortunate one minute later when he punched away a Brentford cross, only for the follow-up shot to get deflected into the goal by Bradbury, who’d hesitated a moment too long. 1-1.
Ings continued to be heavily involved in the game, getting one shot in within a minute of the Brentford goal, and later winning Bournemouth a free kick that was taken quickly and led to a corner on our right. The infamous ‘step over’ routine was attempted but didn’t quite come off: Bradbury’s ferocious shot hitting the underside of the crossbar. One minute later, Bradbury was again involved as he took a throw-in in front of the East Stand. The ball reached Pearce (with his head inexplicably bandaged today) who passed to Feeney on Bournemouth’s left, who in turn found Bartley – who’d otherwise had a relatively quiet game but now managed to score from close range. It didn’t look as though we were going to retain our 2-1 lead for long though: Cooper was adjudged to handle the ball in the area (though there was much debate amongst fans as to which part of his anatomy it had actually touched) and the resultant penalty kick was saved by Jalal. Many keepers have failed to save penalty kicks like this one, but in fact Jalal only needed to hold his ground and stretch to his right. It wasn’t as clever as some of his other saves in this match – including one shortly after the penalty when, although Shwan could only have seen the ball (sailing past all our players from a Brentford free kick) at the last second, he incredibly put it over the bar. On the 78th minute Ings had yet another shot at goal, but it was to be his last as shortly afterwards he left to a standing ovation and was replaced by Hollands. It seemed Eddie was trying to hold on to the 2-1 lead (a risky strategy?) even though there was likely to be quite a lot of added time at the end of the game. (It turned out to be four minutes, though many expected at least six.) But we needn’t have worried; in the 89th minute Big Fletch, who always seems to score the most vital goals, drove the ball into the bottom corner of the net off a Feeney cross in open play. 3-1, and the cue for frozen Brentford fans to leave in large numbers. Eddie lined up a third Bournemouth substitution, presumably to run the clock down, but he didn’t have chance to come on before the final whistle was blown.
There are so many players who played well enough to have won Man of the Match on this performance on another day. Ings could have got it, not for sentimental reasons but because he showed confidence way beyond his age, worked tirelessly, got involved all over the pitch, got himself into great scoring positions, ran down defenders, won headers, and even managed to block a few Brentford shots. Feeney, despite being on the 'wrong' flank, was faster than he has been for ages, and managed one goal and two assists. Pearce was as solid as ever in defence, captained the team well, and played a part in two of the goals. And although Smith, Wiggins, and Bradbury ensured much of the match was played down the wings, Robinson was solid in the centre too. But they all miss out because of the amazing performance of Jalal, with two or three world-class saves and several other important ones, and unable to take the blame for the one Brentford goal. Thank goodness Jalal returned from injury when he did, and surely he must now be added to the list of players (with Pearce, Bartley and Pugh) that we need to hold onto tightly during the January transfer window?
AFCB: Jalal, Smith, Cooper, Pearce, Wiggins, Pugh, Bartley, Robinson, Feeney, Bradbury, Ings
Subs: Stewart, Cummings, Arter, Taylor, Symes, Fletcher (for Pugh, 62 mins), Hollands (for Ings, 80 mins)
Graham Pearcey, Walton-On-Thames