Written by Neil Dawson
So farewell Premier League – you always felt more of a mistress than a wife and today you decided to stay with that loud big bloke from the midlands who has let you down so many times before. Bournemouth’s magical stay in the top flight came to a nail-biting climax today as we all waited for the elusive West Ham goal (Villa having conceded in every away game) that never came…
Such were the fine margins that exist in top-level sport, Bournemouth’s relegation was by one point. Cue a whole trawl back through the season as all narrowly relegated sides do to point out the ‘what if’ moments. We have a massive one though – the goal-line technology switch off that helped gain Villa a point v Sheff U. Ultimately though Eddie will not focus on that in any post mortem – the two points gained against the fellow relegated sides and the lacklustre return post-COVID when just one home draw against Palace, Newcastle or Saints would have done the trick hurts far more than a dormant camera.
Today his side did what was asked though, something that hasn’t happened often enough this year. Eddie wanted to make sure that we won, rather than face the pain of knowing it would have been enough. His side did that today – they went out with spirit and effort and whatever could be thrown at them through the year didn’t apply in a convincing away win at Everton.
Eddie switched to his favoured 4-4-2 with a very attacking King and Brooks on the win – Gosling was back in for Billing and Smith for Stacey. It was s*** or bust time and the line-up reflected it. The performance reflected it too – high up the pitch, full-backs attacking it was like the side that had taken the Premier League by surprise was back.
An early lead was key and it happened quickly with Richarlison handling in the box and KING converting the spot-kick effortlessly. King was a huge threat all game and he should have had the chance to double the lead but a second hand-ball penalty was denied – one hoped it wouldn’t be pivotal and it wasn’t. Once again the vagaries of VAR continue to baffle and it won’t be something we miss.
Wilson had a chance to double the lead too but a familiar sickening feeling came back when KEAN tapped in Theo Walcott’s cross after slack marking – once again Bournemouth coming to the aid of an out of form forward.
The side showed how fired up they are and came back strongly and took the lead just before half time when SOLANKE headed home Rico’s sumptious cross. How fitting after his struggles if he had been instrumental in keeping us in the league.
HT Everton 1 Bournemouth 2
The second half followed a similar pattern with Everton, understandably, less invested in the result and Bournemouth controlling the game-high up. Kean showed the most threat for the home side with a couple of half-chances but was part of a forward line that was well marshalled by our back four – Kelly and Rico impressive again.
Pickford beat away a Wilson drive as Bournemouth threatened but the game was playing itself out in the main with a sea of substitutions. Eddie moved back to a 4-5-1 as he protected the lead and Stanislas and Billing came on for Brooks and Solanke. They were soon to the fore though and STANISLAS who has been excellent since the return cut in and fired a drive that Pickford will want to forget as he should have done much better.
That was the game sealed and attention with the fans turned to West Ham. No amounts of bubbles blown, eels eaten or choruses of ‘Lambeth Walk’ could do it – and we tried them all in our house except the eels. Even in these times I still have taste-buds. The players walked off dejected, Eddie tried to stomach facing the media, the fans shed a tear. We might come back… although it’s statistically less likely than we think but it won’t be the same as your first time. As for Eddie – more on him in the verdict but a seminal moment in the history of our club awaits next week. ‘May you live in interesting times’ states the old Chinese proverb – we certainly have and in the short-term at least – we certainly do.
MOTM against Everton
Ramsdale 7 – Strong handling and one good save.
Smith 7 – Back and buzzing.
Cook 7 – Dominant, strong and good leadership during and post-match
Kelly 7 – Another promising outing – could be a star next year.
Rico 8 – Outstanding deliveries and intelligent play.
King 9 – Was outstanding at times – such a hit or miss player.
Gosling 8 – Good strong performance always there – cared.
Lerma 7 – A nice wing man for Dan and helped seize game.
Brooks 6 – Worked hard – still on recovery path though.
Wilson 6 – Fluffed a few chances but worked hard – not on form.
Solanke 7 – A good finish and hope he goes into summer on a high.
MOM – King just shades it for me ahead of Rico and Dan – he played the way we know he can and may well be watching on TV next year!
But why have we discovered our pace passion and identity in the last game of the season? We will never know why Neil: but the dressing room sure does. – Join the conversation, click here.