Date: 12th January 2013 at 7:53pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

In weather that would have had Noah cancelling holidays and looking for his spanner a late equaliser from Swindon’s Andy Williams broke Bournemouth’s hearts. Thus ended a tumultuous end to end game of passion and pride between two bang on form teams – played in the most atrocious of conditions.

Bournemouth made two changes from the heroic display at Wigan, James returning for Jalal and Grabban coming back for Hughes to return the 4-4-2 shape Eddie prefers.

With a five hour downpour before the match the pitch gradually turned from zipping to sticky as the game progressed but it was Swindon that clicked into gear first. From Robert’s cross, Miller was left in space but James made a brilliant one handed save to prevent the early lead. Bournemouth were fortunate again when Roberts again delivered but Williams headed straight at James when unchallenged.

With the ball sticking in the mud and Pugh diving too often it was a frustrating opening exchange for Bournemouth who had some periods of moving the ball very well but Swindon last ditch blocks prevented the final ball continually. At the other end James slid out of the area with the ball (in a portent of what was to come at the games’ death) but managed to let go of it and Daniels mopped up from Ritchie.

Possession was improving all the time for the Cherries as Swindon’s early adrenalin slowed and they duly took the lead with their first shot on target. Grabban ran the channels well all game and he turned up on the left to fire a low cross that Pitman spun on to and saw his shot blocked. The ball broke to ARTER on the edge of the area and he took one touch before thumping an imperious left foot drive low beyond Foderingham’s outstretched arm.

Mcquoid was starting to click into gear with Francis but a sea of crosses were dealt with by Ward and Devera with Bournemouth lacking a physical presence in the box.

There was a late scare at the end of the half when Collins missed an absolute sitter. The hit-man who had rattled four goals in his last outing was left head in hands after James and Elphick had slipped and he fired over an empty goal when it was far easier to score.

HT Bournemouth 1 Swindon 0

The second half started late after a worrying five minutes was added to roller the pitch. Following an inspection the game commenced, still with torrential rain falling and the ball starting to stick. It had an effect on both sides, who like to play football, but the continual errors and sliding tackles made for great entertainment for the bumper crowd. It wasn’t a game for forwards though as running with the ball accurately was nigh on impossible.

Bournemouth were first out of the traps and the lively Arter wriggled through three challenges in the box before Foderingham smartly denied him down low. From the resultant corner Daniels had a header deflected fractionally wide.

With Cherries in the ascendancy Di Canio rang the Cherries with Martin and dangerous Italian winger De Vita arriving to excitement from the away contingent. They had reason too – as with his first touch the Roman surged into the box and centered for Ritchie to thump a drive that James brilliantly saved with his feet. The veteran stopper was then in the right place to hold Martin’s header.

The game was reaching epic proportions by this point and Pitman thumped a drive from fully 40 yards that Foderingham tipped wide while retreating. Both keepers had been outstanding up to this point but Foderingham stole the show with the games pivotal moment. With Bournemouth camping in the Swindon half in a typical assault Pugh put in a delicious cross that was met by Grabban six yards out. The top scorer’s header was firm and well directed to the bottom corner but the Swindon stopper pulled off an astonishing reflex save and gave his team the platform to get something out of the game.

Howe brought on Fogden and Wes Thomas (a suprise return) for Mcquoid and Pitman to try and keep energy up front but coincidentally or not this spelt the end of Bournemouth’s great surge. With Swindon battling away and Elphick and Cook standing firm to the crosses it looked like Bournemouth would hold on as Eddie made his final substitution. The arrival of Hughes was clearly designed to shore up the midfield so it was ironic that the very second he stepped onto the pitch, and with no fault of his own, Swindon equalised.

The goal was a shame for the excellent James who had just ironically won the sponsors man of the match. He came way to far for a routine centre half’s ball and was left stranded in no mans land on the ground for Williams to collect the ball 30 yards out and fire past Cook who was covering the goal line.

FT Bournemouth 1 Swindon 1

James 7 – Two excellent saves/one costly error.

Francis 6 – A lot of loose balls and rash clearances but solid.
Elphick 7 – Solid and reads the game well.
Cook 7 – Strong in air and some good distribution. Also solid.
Daniels 7 – Bright and inventive moving forwards and quick at back.

Pugh 6 – Struggled early against the rapid Thompson but got better.
Arter 8 – Great goal, ran himself into ground, great fulcrum
O’Kane 7 – Good reading/ battling performance, deeper than normal
Mcquoid 6 – Worked hard but still seems a little unsure on wing.

Grabban 7 – Used channels well but not as strong holding up.
Pitman 6 – Still not in old form but playing well in spurts.

Cracking game and atmosphere and you would have to be a very biased Robins or Cherrys fan to believe either team deserved to win.

In Brentford, Wigan and Swindon we have now played three teams who could be in the Championship next season in a row and haven’t lost any. We haven’t won any either so it is a great testament to how far the team have come and also what we may need to do.

The improvement in a short period is well documented as staggering, built on shape, work-rate and rejuvenated players. What might be more interesting is to look at what is needed. On today and Brentfords showing my own opinion is we lack physical presence in the opponents box. A sea of crosses arrived but both Brett and Lewis are players more happily either creating their own chances or being slipped in behind a back four. Neither are great getting in front of defenders with towering headers or winning headers when the ball is played forward.

I know it’s nit-picking, we are all over the moon at where we have got too but if we are aiming at the top we need to work out how to win crunch games. It is highly possible we could meet Swindon at some stage in the play-offs and Eddie will be pondering how to make that a given victory. At the moment it wouldn’t be necessarily.

Our defence looks solid and only have only conceded to a dodgy pen and a slip in the rain in six games. The midfield have invention and work-rate. We have more forwards than Chelsea so it is odd – nbut think as well as the invention and movement of Brett and Lewis we may need someone who roughs up defenders, holds the ball up and will smack in ten headers between now and the end of May.

So the fantastic unbeaten run deservedly stretches to 18 games, the team spirit and resoluteness was superb and the entertainment level high. Swindon were good too I thought and it was a superb advert for battling through adverse conditions and not complaining. Well done both teams!

Report by Neil Dawson