Written by kirsikka
AFC Bournemouth manager Jason Tindall again showed his willingness to switch things around tactically depending on the opposition, reverting to the three-man central midfield and two up front. However, with the much more mobile Joshua King and Arnaut Danjuma as the front two it felt like it may work much better than the last time we saw it. Pre-match eyes would have been on Josh to see how he reacted to not getting the wished-for move and Lloyd Kelly making his comeback from injury.
Meanwhile, we were facing a Watford who appear to have set their stall out to try and grind 46 1-0 wins from the season if they can. Nothing wrong with that but it takes immense concentration from the defence to manage it. Would they be able to pull it off?
AFCB started like a train, pinning Watford back for the first 90 seconds. The first time they got possession just outside their area Kelly flung himself at the Watford player in a wild manner, getting nowhere near the ball and cleaning the player out. I instantly thought red card and was mightily relieved to see the ref produce a yellow. If anything, the replays made it looks worse as it was about as clear a red as you’ll see this season.
Watford responded immediately with a bad foul which warranted a yellow which wasn’t given and in those two moments the tone for the afternoon was set. Feisty, bad challenges from both teams throughout with the ref either missing them or being incredibly lenient.
After 10 minutes that was all Bournemouth, Watford finally got hold of the ball and out of nowhere, Cathcart hit a glorious left to right cross-field pass straight into the path of Sarr who had acres of space. He hit a perfect low cross in beyond the despairing dive of S Cook but right into the run of Perica who slammed the ball home. Nothing Begovic could have done about that.
The replay post mortem of the goal showed one crucial moment. When Cathcart hit his pass, Kelly was standing two yards further back than the other two centre backs. With Rico, a bit further up the pitch as his role demanded, Sarr could see right along the line and so had a four-yard head start on Diego instead of two yards. Kelly being sloppy in holding the line is the moment the goal was conceded defensively.
Then on 17th minutes another body blow. Lerma has been a revelation this season in his more attacking role but in stretching for a ball on the Watford box seemed to pull a muscle. JT pulled a surprise in replacing him with Solanke rather than the obvious choice of Gosling. What a prescient decision it was.
The match then settled into a period where Watford were happy to sit back in their shape and ask us to break them down whilst trying to snatch a second on the break. They rarely even pressed in our half, content to fill all the space in theirs.
A few notable incidents in this period. There was a terrible Perica dive after he kicked Mepham. Maybe trying to distract the referee but it wouldn’t be the last dive from him in the match as he repeated the act again about ten minutes later. Garner was also booked for reaching out a hand from the ground and hooking Billing down who was about to bear down on their area with the ball and options in front of him.
The play was all AFCB but with little to show for it in terms of chances. The best moment came from excellent Solanke control and snap shot which the Watford keeper saved well.
When Watford did venture forward, when we won it back we were trying to hit the channels from our half to utilise our mobile forward line. Sadly, the balls were universally terrible until the 43rd minute when Solanke finally got on the end of the first good one. He laid it off to an overlapping Stacey who crossed to King but he was crowded out before he could manufacture a shot at goal. It was good to see a clearly planned pre-match tactic finally look to bear some fruit.
There was still time for an excellent defensive intervention to deflect a Solanke shot at goal wide. From the resulting corner, Billing picked up the pieces and got the ball back wide to Rico who pinged in the perfect cross to Solanke who should have left the net bulging but instead connected with his shoulder. Frustrating.
The final moments of the half included lots of fouls back and forth, another dive from Perica and then Garner hacking down Lewis Cook who was about to break away. A clear and obvious deliberate foul to stop a breakaway attack that should have been a second yellow card without a moments thought. The ref had other ideas though and, like Kelly before him, he somehow stayed on the pitch.
The whistle blew on an often pedestrian AFCB performance at times with Solanke, Lewis Cook and Stacey looking our best players. Rico seemed much more subdued out wide compared to his excellent recent form and King was either rusty as hell or not that bothered. Meanwhile, the Watford management realised Garner was now a walking red card and subbed him during the break.
The second half began with a flurry of Watford chances, all from the same move. A long ball over the top into the channel for Sarr to chase. From the first, there was an excellent Begovic save and from a subsequent one Kelly gave a tug of Sarr’s shirt to send him over. It should have been a second yellow for Kelly but the ref waved play on. Three red cards missed in the match now for the ref.
Solanke was still looking our most threatening player and on the hour a delightful switch of feet and left foot shot brought an outstanding save from Foster.
After a first half that had produced a lot of action, the second was much bittier. There were still plenty of fouls from both teams constantly breaking up play although it was probably exactly what the Watford manager wanted. I’ve no idea why we thought it would help us build up a head of steam.
The Watford keeper had started time-wasting in the 53rd minute and, given all their 1-0 wins so far this season, their plan was obvious. Don’t commit men forward, see out time but if a break happens then great.
An erratic Danjuma was replaced by Stan to little avail. In fact, Watford brought another good save from Begovic on 76 minutes and moments later the previous multiple diving offender Pereca went down with a genuine injury. Hopefully, he’s ok but worth noting that from when the game was stopped for him to when it restarted was four minutes. Allowing for the multiple other physio stoppages for treatment, time-wasting and subs how there was only seven minutes of added time at the end remains a mystery.
Finally, on 84 minutes JT decided to throw caution to the wind and take of Rico for Riquelme. I’ll be honest, he looked a little lightweight on the ball during this cameo and we spent most of the period from then until deep into injury time giving away silly free-kicks.
Finally, on 94 minutes King had a good chance to score from a header but his looped effort was tipped over by Foster. There was no chance direct from the corner but we won the ball back, put it wide and it was swung in (Riquelme? I didn’t catch who delivered it). Foster tried to punch clear but his weak effort only found Kelly unmarked in the area who pinged in a shot that Mepham turned in from close range.
Delirious celebrations from the players and here from me as, if you can’t get three points off a rival then the next best thing is to ruin their weekend with a late stoppage-time equaliser. Very satisfying.
Man of the match against Watford
I thought we played well.
When you play wing-backs, the job of the wing-back is extremely tough. When we used to play 4-4-2 we would create chances from out wide and double up on the opposition full-backs.
With wing-backs, this job is given to just one guy and is hard. I can see why JT was keen to get Matt Richie back.
I thought Lewis Cook and Philip Billing done well.
For me, Danjuma reminded me of Ibe. Getting the ball and killing it dead and it wasn’t his best game.