Written by Neil Dawson
If you had been away for a year you would have sat wondering what was going on as the team ran out to clackers and Sweet Caroline. What was familiar though was the team. Eddie doing what he always does in a mini-crisis – put as many of the championship side back together that he has left. Tommy Elphick was probably approached for an emergency loan. In came Pugh and Surman, a flat back four with Franno at right back, Fraser on the wing and a familiarity that is always enough to see off the weaker opposition.
The game started brightly, Bournemouth were clearly stung into action following a week of reflection. The game revolved around slipping Wilson in, something that happened with alarming frequency for Swansea but the hitman is still not firing and the chances came and went. He should be encouraged by how often he got clear though.
Bournemouth’s bright start fizzled though on some poor control of the ball up front and Swansea started to threaten on the break. The home team were indebted to Asmir Begovic who pulled off two outstanding saves in quick succession to deny Ayew and Dyer.
You can’t underestimate the importance of not going behind at that stage and Bournemouth should have instantly gone in front but after a flowing move, Wilson fired wide Fraser’s cross from three yards to the disbelief of all. Another great move saw Surman released but he inexplicably passed when it seemed easier to shoot. The returning midfielder was having a good half though keeping the ball moving.
Bournemouth’s pressure mounted and mounted but floundered on some poor corners and free-kicks so it was a mild surprise when it was a set piece that provided the lead. Wilson was sent tumbling in what looked like a penalty but the referee had other ideas and sprayed his foam the other side. Surman tapped the ball sideways and FRASER bent a beauty into the top corner to send the clackers clacking crazy.
Swansea nearly equalised within minutes but Dyer fired over when it looked easier to score sparking a bit of pushing and arguing as Begovic blamed Francis.
Ht Bournemouth 1 Swansea 0
The second half saw a lot of great concentration and effort from Bournemouth but they sat deeper to protect the lead and played on the break to good effect. King was particularly lively and Fraser ran and ran. Swansea didn’t really have answers and too often looked worn down before launching the ball.
Chances were at a premium though and it was quite a way into the half before Cook thundered a header over from Fraser’s cross. A second golden chance came and went when King beautifully crossed for Wilson but Fabianski made a brilliant save at point-blank range to ensure the hitmans drought would move on to the final week.
Bournemouth were displaying the work rate that got them into this league with Fraser, in particular, shining with lung-busting runs. Cook and Surman were also quick with the press and Wilson and King put awesome shifts in.
Ake flashed a header from a corner straight at the keeper but the Dutch maestro, who will be putting an extension on his house for his player of the year trophies in the summer, was doing more at the other end to keep the result as was. Gosling arrived for Pugh and Mousset for Wilson as Eddie ran the clock down. Mousset was the only person who threatened the scorers when he thumped a tremendous dipping drive that whistled past the upright.
Ft Bournemouth 1 Swansea 0
Begovic 7 – outstanding early saves and safe handling.
Francis 7 – caught out a few times but great going forwards.
Cook 7 – dominant in the air and on the ground.
Ake 7 – another stroll for the Dutch god.
Daniels 7 – watchful and enjoyed Pugh back.
Fraser 9 – lung-busting effort, covering, skill and a goal.
Cook 7- kept pressing and some enterprising runs.
Surman 7- nice ticking over of play and reading of the game
Pugh 7- grew into the game after a tough start.
King 8- terrorised Swansea with pace and skill at times
Wilson 7- brave display as he never gave up despite firing blanks.
Mom…weeman for me. Back in his right position, he shone by showing the spirit we lacked in recent games. Scored too!
Like a comfy pair of slippers, the championship stalwarts dug Eddie out of a hole again. He needed a display of energy and spirit and that’s what he got. 90 minutes of solid effort, a rare occurrence this season.
This display was a victory for playing people in their right positions. It may have been the more limited 4-4-2 but it’s enough against the lesser sides and everyone knows their job. It showed a much more coherent performance to secure safety. Everyone was in a position they are comfortable with as opposed to recent weeks when too many weren’t. Ibe and Gosling were also relieved of duty which was correct following their effort at St Mary’s. Again, energy returned as a result. The back four were excellent against an admittedly shot shy opposition and most pleasing to me was the signs at last that King and Wilson could dove-tail.
So…a game that provided the answer to this season raises questions for next season. We can’t keep relying on the old guard, we need to push on. We are over the line but later than we should. We have too many highly paid players, not in the team and a big dilemma on the formation. Eddie has a busy summer ahead…although he will have learnt again it may be more recent arrivals that move on as the old guard will be needed for future holes!
Still…the main thing is we can put ourselves through this tension and pain again next year. It’s a funny old game football.
Thanks for another season of reading and arguing with these rambles and I will see you again next year, god willing. Enjoy your summer!