Marcus Browning was the man handed the captain's armband and the travelling support congregated on the uncovered terrace, bathed in sunshine to see how the new era without Carl would fare. It was a 5-4-1 formation to start, with Derek Holmes promoted from the bench due to Alan Connell having a knee injury. Stephen Purches made a welcome return to the bench. The team was once again down to the bare bones with AC, Supa Fletch, Wade and Jason Tindall joining us on the terraces.
What followed was perhaps the poorest 45 minutes I have witnessed Bournemouth play for some years. We did not manage a single attempt on target in the first half. Brentford were invited to come and attack us and John Salako showed he still has some of the X-Factor, being involved in many of the Bees' forays into our box.
For the first half hour Brentford were all good build up and no end product. Cherries were on the back foot and Eddie Howe was called in to action on several occasions to stop the Bees taking the lead. Eddie was giving a solid performance whilst Maher and Broadhurst were a little at sea. It took until the 26th minute to get near goal for Bournemouth when James Hayter blasted his effort well high. Shortly after, Maher headed softly wide from a rare corner.
Brentford were by far the more dangerous and Isiah Rankin screwed a shot wide from a Kevin O’Connor corner kick. Seconds later and Salako made another probing run into the Cherries box and passed to Rankin who found Stewart Talbot on the penalty spot. Mossy looked to have his shot covered until the ball found the foot of Warren Cummings who unavoidably deflected it past and into the net. 1-0 on 32 minutes. No more than Brentford deserved.
Brentford turned up the heat even more and O’Connor, the Brentford one, hit a post and then Salako looked a dead cert to score clean through on goal until Moss produced yet another fantastic save to tip the ball over. What would some of our scorelines be without Neil Moss I wonder!
It was all Brentford, with no respite. Derek made a great defensive header away from our net and Bournemouth seemed to lack direction. Stock made his one trademark reckless challenge of the match and was lucky to avoid the referee’s book. Which brings me to the referee! Richard Beeby. Worst ref seen since relegation day at Wrexham 3 years ago. Fact. Which made it all the worst for the travelling contingent. Not only was the team lost, the referee seemed intent on helping Brentford keep their 100% home record. The poorest decision right in front of us was handball given against Hayter when he had his back to the ball and player. From the free kick almost another goal but yet again Moss was at hand to save the day.
The only players to come out of that dreadful first half with anything good to say about them were Neil Moss and Eddie Howe.
I know it’s a cliché but it really couldn’t have got any worse. Happily, it was a lot better. Bournemouth switched to 4-4-2 with Stephen Purches replacing Karl Broadhurst. Deadly Derek hit a left foot shot straight at Nelson in the Bees goal and signalled our intent to at least try and score. That was our first attempt on target! 46 minutes!
However, a lapse of concentration seconds later put us further behind. A free kick out on the right was floated in at the near post and was flicked towards goal where Rankin managed to head in from 3 yards giving Moss no chance. 2-0 47 minutes.
Bournemouth then had to attack and played some better football. Derek hooked an effort 30 feet over and then Hayter was fouled on the edge of the box. Stock’s free kick hit the wall and rebounded to Young who floated the ball over the Brentford defence and Derek, who looked possibly offside, headed well past Nelson. 2-1 50 minutes.
Brentford still pressed forward and Salako shot just wide. The ref continued to make poor decisions and from a resulting free kick Hargreaves' powerful shot hit the bar. Moss was yet again at full stretch to save from Rankin. At least it wasn’t all one way traffic and Gareth O’Connor was almost put through by Hayter but Turner stuck out a boot to stop him.
Then a certain Stephen Hunt became a major player the afternoon’s proceedings. Put through on Mossy’s goal he dived for a penalty which infuriated the Cherries' keeper who had pushed the ball away from him. The ref just had a quiet word with him instead of the deserved yellow card. Brian Stock was then substituted for James Rowe. Derek Holmes then was fouled but no free kick was given and when the ref realised Derek needed treatment to his head he stopped the game. From the drop ball the Bournemouth players stood back, expecting Brentford to play the ball to Moss to restart the game. However, Hunt decided not to do this and charge through on goal. Neil Young stuck out a foot and fouled the midfielder but Mr. Beeby decided to listen to the home crowd and brandish a straight red card without thinking about it. Yes, Hunt was through on goal and Young was the last man, but was Hunt playing the game in the spirit it should be played?
An eagle-eyed supporter next to me spotted a Bees fans berating Hunt and then throwing his program at him and leaving the ground! Maybe a Cherries supporter in the wrong end! It did seem harsh (on Young) and was the first booking of the match, but worse still made our plight that much harder for the afternoon.
In the last 25 minutes though Cherries tried hard to battle back, but it was too much in the blistering heat. Rowe almost touched the ball past the Bees keeper from Cummings' neat forward pass and Hayter shot well from 12 yards after more good work from Rowe. Hunt was then substituted, possibly due to repercussions from his “fine performance”. More poor decisions from the ref made it feel like 12 men v 10 and the heat was telling as James Coutts replaced Gareth O’Connor.
Brentford had two good chances to wrap up the points but were denied by Moss and a woeful header with Frampton unmarked and an unguarded net at his mercy. With 3 minutes of stoppage time Cherries were down to 9 men when Purches, who was obviously not fit, limped from the pitch and Brentford happily wasted the time away. A disappointing first half. A very poor referee. A needless sending off. No one to blame though in my opinion. We face a tough few months ahead. We have lost our captain, injuries are mounting, Young will face another ban we could do without. But we will battle on, we always do! Peter Phillips may need to give Sean a few pounds from the kitty this week. Thank goodness for a certain Mr. Moss. Without him this easily could have been 7-1.
Neil Moss. No question.
AFCB: Neil Moss, Broadhurst (Purches 45), Maher, Howe, Young, Browning, Stock (Rowe 63), O'Connor (Coutts 76), Cummings, Holmes, Hayter.
Subs Not Used: Stewart, Ryan Moss.
Stuart Mitchell, Hampton, Middlesex