Written by Waz afcb
Yet again, another afternoon approached with a somewhat naive sense of optimism, only to be bought crashing back down to earth by the time the clock hits five by a growingly predictable feeling of an opportunity squandered. The big talking point going into this one was how we would line up, a slightly bizarre team sheet containing no less than four central midfielders left a great number of us scratching our heads. As it transpired we reverted back to our old friend, the tried and tested (to have failed time and time again) three at the back. Smith and Stanislas took the wing-back slots with a midfield three of Lerma, Cook and Wilshere patrolling the middle of the park. Shane Long was preferred over Surridge to perform the thankless task of feeding on scraps all afternoon and Phil Billing was given what seemed to be a free role in behind to drift around freely and influence the game wherever possible.
The first half took a while to get going and at times felt a little like a pre-season friendly, the visitors enjoying a lot of possession (as you’d expect with four central midfielders on the pitch) and at times knocking the ball around nicely, but not with the usual sense of urgency and intensity that you would associate with an important championship fixture. Having said that, however, we certainly did carve out the most notable goal-scoring opportunities of the opening period. Firstly Billing was played through on goal by a trademark slide-rule pass by Wilshere, who had picked up a loose ball in the middle of the park. Big Phil, unfamiliar with this kind of situation, seemed to slow down as he bore down on goal, seemingly in two minds about whether to go for goal or to square to a team mate. This hesitation proved costly and in the end, the stretched foot of Billing could only prod a looping cross-shot toward goal, that was deflected behind via the shoulder of the home keeper. Later on in the half, following a sustained period of comfortable possession, Lerma all of a sudden decided to take the game by the scruff of its neck and played a peach of a lofted through ball over the host’s backline and onto the onrushing Long. Suddenly, out of nothing, Long found himself bearing down on goal with only the keeper to beat. He took a touch to steady himself and just as we’d have been forgiven for expecting the net to bulge, he proceeded to hit the ball tamely at the goalkeeper. Opportunity missed. The on loan Southampton forward fluffing his lines at a time that we really needed him to show a bit of composure. The last action of the half saw a rasping Lewis Cook effort swerve agonisingly wide of the upright following a neat free-kick routine, the visitors could certainly feel aggrieved to be going in only on level terms.
The second half started off in a similar vein, Bournemouth enjoying plenty of possession and rarely looking troubled by the hosts who up until this point had not laid a glove on the visitors. The first major chance of the half again fell our way, an overlapping Lloyd Kelly producing a peach of a cutback and finding an onrushing Adam Smith at the back post. Smith, desperately trying to sort his feet out, could not adjust in time and only managed to divert his effort tamely wide of the post. Another opportunity missed and you started to get the feeling that this was going to cost us. This moment swiftly came as Bournemouth were hit by a sucker punch entirely of their own making. Another passage of passing along the backline saw the ball arrive at the feet of Mepham. The often-maligned centre back took one look up and arrived at the conclusion that the best course of action was to play a suicidal ball into the feet of the deep-lying Lerma, who was being heavily pressured with his back to goal. Before we even had time to utter a single obscenity in dear old Meps’ direction, in nipped the onrushing Johanson to slot calmly past Begovic and give the hosts the advantage. A situation that we could all see coming from a mile away and all of a sudden we were behind in a game that our opponents were yet to even really show up to. Woodgate responded by throwing on Surridge for the largely ineffective Wilshere, and this change didn’t take long to pay dividends. A lovely clipped ball to the back post was met by an equally sumptuous header back across goal by the super sub, presenting Long with an opportunity that even he couldn’t squander, bundling the ball home from no more than a yard out and bringing the visitors back into it. The momentum had now firmly swung back in our favour, but despite again enjoying a lot of possession, we were finding opportunities hard to come by, a couple of speculative efforts being all that we could muster. Then ten minutes from time the unthinkable happened, and again it came out nowhere. A ball played into the QPR forward was flicked neatly down the left channel and into the path of the marauding substitute Adomah. The Bournemouth defence parted like the Red Sea, with notable mentions to both Smith and our friend again Mepham, who were both hopelessly caught out of position. Adomah flashed the ball across the face of goal, which was met at the back post by the late arrival of Kane who subsequently diverted an accomplished first-time finish past the hapless Begovic to edge the hosts back in front. It just wasn’t going to be our day, was it? The final ten minutes descended into a bit of a farce, with Bournemouth completely folding and QPR missing numerous opportunities to add a bit of gloss to the score line. Notable mentions go to the QPR forward who managed to completely miss the open target from six yards out after Asmir had suffered from a case of the ‘spaghetti wrists,’ and to Sam Surridge who for reasons not known to me, found himself clearing the ball off of our own goal line late on following another QPR break away. The game fizzled out with the cherries unable to lay another glove on their opponents, the hosts seeing out the win to maintain their enviable recent form and leave the cherries looking nervously over their shoulders with off the field matters now sure to take centre stage…
Man of the match against QPR
The personnel, tactics and shape were completely baffling which resulted in a very strange performance. Bizarre. – Join the conversation, click here.