Date: 22nd January 2017 at 8:21am
Written by: Neil Dawson

Anyone who didn`t put ten quid on this game being a draw and twenty quid on Gomes making a world class save missed the chance of a few bucks as Bournemouth v Watford played out to script at a freezing Dean Court.

Twice Bournemouth came from behind to rescue a point in a game they largely dominated for possession. The result paled into insignificance though to jubilant home fans celebrating their teams` refusal to let in a third for the first time in living memory? they took to the night air singing the names of the defensive quartet that achieved such a rare feat. It may be many months before we see the like again.

Eddie made two changes from last week. Wilson and King returned with Afobe stepping down and Arter also making way in a surprise dropping for the habitual lynchpin of the side. This meant Wilshere dropped into the engine room.

It wasn`t the greatest start?.Bournemouth, who normally come out the blocks at speed, were strangely hesitant. Eddie said after the game that confidence had dropped a little and it showed. Surman and Stanislas were particularly poor in giving the ball away and Mings was a little ‘bambi on ice` with it at his feet. Watford offered little threat other than a punt towards Italian oil tanker Okaka.

Gradually though the home side, largely through Wilshere`s prompting, got a rhythm up. First his genius ball saw Fraser`s header tipped over spectacularly by Gomes (denying ‘Wee man` his first and last headed senior goal) The flying Brazilian gloves then took off to keep out Wilshere`s swirling 30 yarder at full stretch.

Regular viewers of Bournemouth knew what was coming next. Home team in full flow, couple of chances, sea of crosses and pressure???..and??..bang???the opposition score with their first attack due to defensive error. Week after week after week. This time it was Fraser with the needless pass-back to concede a corner. No problem, we can defend this??..err???three unopposed headers, the last of which was KABASELE stooping unopposed for a yellow lead.

This goal flattened Bournemouth who put on a shoddy display for the rest of the half. We have been well spoilt over recent history and this was a brief reminder of what afternoons at Dean Court used to be like pre-Eddie. Passes behind people, poor crosses, set pieces of comedic ineptitude it was a blessed relief when the whistle blew. Surman opting to pass because the ball was on his right foot twelve yards out and unopposed summing it up at the end.

HT Bournemouth 0 Watford 1

The second half could not have started in deeper contrast. Eddie presumably chucked some cups around at half time and his team came out firing. They equalised quickly when Smith embarked on a wonderfully mazy run beating three people before centering for KING to sidefoot home.

Game on and Bournemouth went for the jugular in a 15 minute blitzkrieg. Gomes made a worldy to just get fingertips to Fraser`s curling drive and the energy levels were high. Frustratingly the standard of the free-kicks and set pieces were very poor when we had Watford on the rack, Stanislas in particular finding the first man like a magnet.

The Bournemouth performance was so strong that we all knew what would happen next? Watford must surely score with their first meaningful attack of the half due to an error or two. Cook started it with a needless push on Deeney who was headed to his own half. From the free-kick a corner arrived. No problem???we can defend this??..err??.Smith loses DEENEY? Boruc comes too late ?.our old nemesis flicks an easy header home.

Cue some changes?..Afobe and Ibe arrives. Ibe desperate to win the fans over until his necklace broke first challenge and he had to spend a few minutes untangling it and after the referee refused to look after it put it on the sideline where he kept looking at it to check it was ok. You couldn`t make this stuff up?.

We started going more direct which was meat and drink for the giant Prodl. Any football was coming from Wilshere who really was running the show amidst a sea of yellow/red/black 20 man mediocrity. He also refused to shoot and the game was starting to get scrappy? It was rescued in the last ten minutes. Surman for once realising that you weren`t deducted points for passing forwards and AFOBE cleverly rolled his man in the left channel before firing across Gomes with aplomb.

FT Bournemouth 2 Watford 2

Boruc 5 – Nothing to do except command box on two set pieces.
Smith 6 – Good going forwards and solid enough at back
Cook 6- Has to dominate box more at corners but good open play
Mings 6 – Grew in confidence as game went on.
Daniels 6 – Steady performance front and back without being on fire
Stanislas 5 – Consistency is his problem and an off day today
Wilshere 8 – Sea of class on a day that lacked it.
Surman 5 – Arter must have been rubbing his eyes in disbelief
Fraser 7 – Another lively, clever offering by the resurgent wee man
King 7 – Not his position but keeps trying and scored well.
Wilson 5 – Very off his game and contributed little.
Verdict
Probably a fair result, not because of Watford`s attacking ability but because any team that restricts the opposition to no open play chances or penalties but still concedes twice doesn`t deserve to win. Eddie said they had spent the whole week practicing defending set pieces. Now I am really worried because my last hope was we hadn`t bothered yet but would soon. Eddie talked about luck again today because they scored from their only two chances. It`s not luck. It`s a desire to get to the ball first and a physical stature. Until he finds defensive personnel that match this he will be practising to no avail for some time to come. It has to come through one or two signings – proper defenders – surely he knows this and won`t spend £30m on a confused reserve striker and an anorexic winger.

Two other key issues for me today??.

1) Calum Wilson. We love him to bits but he is a goal scorer, pure and simple, and if not doing this there is nothing else – he won`t do some wing play or drop deep and spread it. He has not scored from open play in ten games – Afobe has 3 in 5 and King 2 in 2. They also offer something else in open play. Might be time to give one of them a proper run in the out and out striker spot or even try them together.

2) Harry Arter. It is good to drop a star player if they are slightly out of form. This only applies though if you are fair and consistent and do this to everyone. Surman`s name is embossed on the team sheet no matter how he plays and we have other inconsistent players in the team?Stanislas?Daniels?.who are allowed to have a run of bad games and play themselves into form. Arter also offers combative play even when off form with the ball, he is the heartbeat of the team. Until you start dropping everyone who has a bad couple of games you can`t do it to your star player. We rarely win when Arter is missing through injury and suspension and we didn`t win again without him today.

We know our best team and shape – it has been evident in some of the great performances of this season. To see us keep chopping and changing and being a long way from recreating it is a worry. We have a buffer but after Palace we have Everton, City, WBA and Man U?. the following month?Liverpool, Chelsea, Tottenham. Only West Ham and Swansea at home among these stand out as great point taking chances. We shouldn`t be doing anything than putting our best players on the pitch for these six pointers. So??while an entertaining draw I`m calling this two points dropped against a Watford side on a dreadful run. Eddie needs a good focus on basics, his and the teams.
Agree on the starting line ups. Look at the team that did the damage against Liverpool. Arter with no Surman. The reluctance from some of our players to shoot is ridiculous, corner kicks unforgiveable and the sideways passing for the sake of it is bordering on insanity, especially when you see how our goals do arrive, quick slick passing forward.

That said I’m relieved to get a point today because for a time it looked like being Sunderland mk.2.

Didn’t think Wilson was that bad. Terrible substitutions though, King off and not Wilson? And why no Arter at all when Surman was our worst player today.

Must have a CB bought this month, an absolute must Eddie over anything else.

 
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