Jan 3 Darlington 2-1 AFC Bournemouth Att: 2571

Last updated : 09 January 2009 By Richie Barker
It's not often that Percy Bysshe Shelley is referenced prior to Bournemouth games, other than as a pre match drinking venue, but Peter Wicks was quick to draw parallels between the poet's stark vision of a ruined statue in the desert and George Reynolds' spectacular folly of a stadium. Hubris is alive and well and living in Darlington.

A more contemporary poet seemed relevant to the visitors as the latest in a long line of under-funded businessmen shuffled into the hot-seat of running the club and caretaker manager Eddie Howe adopted a very Quinn-like one up front strategy in a bid to pick up the first points of the holiday period. "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" indeed.

Darlington enjoyed the bulk of the early possession, but although the ball spent too much time around our box a combination of luck and the home team's incompetence saw little to trouble Jalal. Pearce and Guyett were solid with Partington and Cooper doing a good job protecting them from midfield, but both full-backs looked vulnerable, Cummings in particular struggling against a pacy opponent. After 29 minutes there was almost as much shock as pleasure as Bournemouth at last mounted a meaningful attack culminating in Bartley putting in a low cross from the right and Hollands giving us the lead from close range. Bolstered by this two more chances followed, Partington burst through but was denied by a last-ditch tackle and Pearce missed narrowly with a header. The half ended to a chorus of disapproval from the home fans, dotted sparsely around the vast arena.

Pawel Abbott came on at half time to galvanise the flagging Darlo attack, but the few chances created came to nothing, and it was far from one-way traffic. Guyett and Hollands went close and Pitman several times had the chance to strike on the break but lacked the pace to make the opportunities count. Not a bad lone effort from the striker today on his return from the Blyth debacle, and the wag who shouted "tell him it's last orders he'll soon get up" when he was poleaxed was a being little cruel (though funny).

Could we hold on? Sorry, it doesn't work like that. In the 83rd minute a clearance was misplaced directly to Abbot who gave Jalal no chance. Even the most biased Cherries fan would have conceded we were lucky to still be ahead by this stage, but we were certainly worth a point, and so the denouement in added time was harsh indeed. Burgmeir ran into Pearce in the box and referee Mathieson decided that was good enough for a penalty. Purdie sent Jalal the wrong way and Bournemouth faced the long journey home with nothing to show for their efforts.

It's too early to say if Murry and Howe has anything to offer that Baker and Quinn did not. If not, the closing lines of Shelley's work may be all too apposite.

"Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

Man Of The Match
Mark Molesley worked hard and supported the lone striker well from midfield. Cooper and Pearce were also impressive.

AFCB: Jalal, Bradbury, Cooper, Pearce, Cummings, Partington, Hollands, Bartley, Guyett, Pitman, Molesley
Subs: Pryce, Igoe, Garry (for Cummings, 62 mins), Connell (for Pitman, 85 mins), Goulding (for Partington, 90 mins)