Date: 3rd December 2017 at 6:27pm
Written by: Neil Dawson

As with the last time these two sides met – it was honours even. Another similarity is that once again the topic of conversation on the way home was penalties – last time the moving penalty spot – this time the one not given for Smith.

Eddie didn’t hold back revealing his feelings from Wednesday’s performance v Burnley. Out went Steve Cook, Arter, Ibe, Pugh and Wilson in came Smith, L. Cook, Fraser, Defoe and Stanislas… more telling though…….the same 4-4-2 which Southampton exposed in the second half with an astute tactical switch.

The game’s opening minutes lacked quality, not because of the normal frenzy of a derby as this was a calmer match, but due to both sides giving the ball away or knocking it into touch. This strange lack of quality kept it heading end to end but both defences were on top. Van Dijk has had a controversial year and he nearly scored his first goal since his return from exile, rising un-marked to head millimetres past Begovic’s upright from a corner. When Tadic then also headed over unmarked the home crowd started to fear the worst but thankfully the home team improved to go on and dominate the rest of the half.

With Cook pulling the strings in midfield and Fraser and Daniels enjoying the left flank it was starting to feel like a Bournemouth of old. Defoe was denied the opener when his clever six yard box flick on Smith’s drive was met by a quite unbelievable reflex save from Forster who saw it very late. The big stopper then went full-length to keep out Ake’s header from the resulting corner.

The attacks were relentless and when Smith charged onto Defoes ball and was brought down in the box the home fans and team went up as one. Dive ruled Mr Moss and out came the yellow. It’s hard to be impartial watching the replays – my view, he was brought down but was so looking for it the unnaturalness of the fall confused the ref.

Southampton were rocking and playing on the break and Begovic was smart to deny Austin’s header and Franno blocked the follow up. Daniels then tried to get his second entry in the goal of the season with an outrageous Carlosesque curling volley which thundered just wide from 30 yards. The goal was coming though and when King robbed Hoedt and fed Surman the midfielder spotted FRASER scampering up on the left and he fired right footed under Forster for the games opener.

HT Bournemouth 1 Saints 0

Southampton switched formation at half time to a 4-3-3 pushing Redmond forward to sit between Ake and Daniels and create uncertainty. It gave them much more of the ball and with our midfield dragged back as the team sat deep the usual gap between them and King/Defoe appeared. We were getting bogged in and Boufal brought the best out of Begovic. At the other end King’s crossshot was almost turned in by a flying Stanislas at the far post.

That was a rare home salvo though as a pattern of giving the ball away returned. Eddie will be furious at Southampton’s equaliser. Begovic’s kick to Smith was poor, Smith rescued then lost the situation, Surmans header out was weak, Cook then received the ball on the edge of the area and tried to dribble but was robbed by Romeu who fed Redmond to cross for AUSTIN’s normal clinical low finish. Four individual errors in 30 seconds. Cue normal idiot celebration from the Neanderthal Saints hit-man.

Eddie then made two like for like swaps with Ibe and Wilson replacing Stan and Defoe. It made little difference, both sides huffed and puffed as the game stretched but another pair of great saves by each keeper kept the score as was. Begovic denying Tadic with a great dive to top corner and Forster similarly going full length to keep out King’s drive.

FT Bournemouth 1 Saints 1

Begovic 8 – Three great saves and safe handling.

Smith 6 – Always involved but a little missing at back at times.
Francis 6 – Gave ball away a bit but generally alert.
Ake 7 – Usual intelligent mobile display.
Daniels 7 – Bright attacking presence and watchful at back.

Fraser 7 – Bubbly first half, asked a lot of questions and scored. Tired.
Cook 7 – Outstanding first half, faded and tired in second half – error.
Surman 6 – Solid first half – disappeared in the second half.
Stanislas 6 – Clever interlinking but fairly quiet return.

Defoe 5 – Couple of nice touches but we don’t play to him at all.
King 7 – Lively up for it display and some great skill.
A much better display that blows away Wednesday’s cobwebs. The team looked much more energetic. Cook and Fraser’s ability to take people on at pace opened the game up considerably and it felt altogether much more Bournemouth. I think having a few players not ‘match fit’ in Fraser, Cook, Stan and Defoe took it’s toll in the second half as the centre midfield in particular disappeared which is a worry with more quality opponents to come.

Of the changes I think Wilson and Cook (although they didn’t have the best game Wednesday) were a little harsh as neither did Francis or Surman but no chance of them ever being dropped. We don’ t play to Defoe so it’s always an element of passenger in his displays but I don’t blame him personally.

I still think we need five in midfield to really shine and get King and Stanislas either side of Wilson/Defoe to score. We know how long it took Arter and Surman to get the fitness levels up to do 90 mins as a midfield duo and Cook clearly started to wilt before the end. Again…not his fault, its a tough, tough system and he was outstanding before he tired.

The draw was a fair result and with one more game to go before the ‘run of doom’ leading up to Chrimbo hopefully we have stumbled on something to get us a point or three from Palace.

Report by Neil Dawson

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