I suppose a point is better than nothing, especially as a lot of other results went our way. We’re still in the clarts but we’re in contact with the other strugglers. Should that group include Bournemouth? Eddie Howe has a well-drilled side and I thought they looked good for a lot of the game but they also made some errors, so my opinion is yes.
But what is my opinion worth? Nothing. Nowt, Zilch. The man who matters is Pete Sixsmith. He was there, here are his thoughts, and well worth reading they are:
BOURNEMOUTH AND BOSCOMBE ATHLETIC (H).
Not a great day for Sunderland and our hopes of avoiding a trip to Burton Albion next season, but it was a great day for young Jack Thompson who saw his first Sunderland goal at the fifth time of asking.
Jack is a good friend of Hayley Penman, daughter of John, oft of these pages. They travel down from the Fife town of Blairhall, depending on kick off times, the quality of the opposition and the vagaries of the railway timetables.
Jack has seen four games without us scoring and as I spoke to him before the game, he was confident that he would break his duck at this game. He trooped off to his seat, wearing his Sunderland scarf and a big smile as he anticipated the next 90 minutes.
I started going when I was his age but instead of having to watch Lee Cattermole, I got Martin Harvey. No Vito Mannone for me, I got Jimmy Montgomery. Poor Jack gets Adam Johnson – I got George Mulhall. Youngsters nowadays have a much harder life than we had. No free milk at school, no Animal Magic on the box and no freezing cold terraces to stand on, things which made M.Salut and myself the men that we are.
In those halcyon days, AFC Bournemouth were Bournemouth and Boscombe Athletic and were a perpetual 3(S), 3 and 4 team who were frequent visitors to Feethams, Bootham Crescent and The Victoria Ground (Hartlepool branch). Now they are part of the southern takeover of the Premier League, have attracted finance from Russia and the United States (no Cold War on the Costa Geriatrica) and have splashed the cash on attacking players as they strive not to do a Swindon or a Barnsley.
In addition, they have an excellent manager in Eddie Howe and a footballing philosophy that clearly runs through the club; they sign players who will fit a pattern rather than players who are available. And so, they butchered us for the first twenty five minutes where, apart from M’Vila, we were totally overrun in midfield. They were the complete antithesis of us; where we plodded, they had pace; where we gave the ball away they found a Boscombe shirt; where we laboured in front of goal, they took an early chance and looked comfortable.
They attacked us down the flanks and for twenty minutes Junior Stanislas, (42 games for West Ham including a goal on his debut against us; Allardyce shipped him out to Burnley, then managed by Eddie Howe) looked a world beater. He strolled down the left side of our defence and put in a teasing cross which Benik Afobe (signed from Wolves for a club record £10m) steered in with a diving header. It was a good goal, well worked and well taken although some thought that Mannone might have done better seeing as he got a hand to it.
The keeper’s reaction suggested that he was among them. And then, for the next few minutes we never got a worthwhile touch. All the traditional failings, the ones that are almost certain to take us down, were there. Sloppy defending, aimless clearances, poor ball control, a lack of cohesion and the constant hoofing the ball upfield to Defoe, left the crowd disillusioned. Some sat silently, George in front punched the air in frustration and others began to boo and jeer. A man sat behind me demanded that Allardyce send Fletcher on. Make of that what you will.
Then we began to get a foothold into the game. We began to disrupt the neat passing moves that Bournemouth were using. They had a couple of chances but failed to take them. And then, as many in the crowd prepared to give them a booing that would have been heard in Whitburn, all of young Jack’s dreams came true when Fabio Borini slipped a quite superb ball through to Patrick Van Aanholt and the galloping wing back beat Boruc at his near post.
The half time apple tasted a little better and the half time wee was not accompanied by grumbles but there was still a feeling of gloom around the East Stand and probably in the other three as well.
We played better second half. Johnson and Lens swapped roles and both looked better in those positions. Sam switched Downing from the wing to the role behind the forward at West Ham last season. Johnson seems better suited to that role than as a wide player.
There were chances for both sides; Boruc somehow kept a header from Billy Jones out and Lewis Grabban (£8m for a 28 year old who counts Motherwell, Rotherham and Brentford amongst his clubs – the word journeyman springs to mind) should have scored, didn’t and was probably relieved to find the offside flag up.
Sam was pleased we had got a draw; Howe was disappointed they had not won, which says a lot about the aspirations and expectations of both clubs. Bournemouth have a style of play which they stick to and players come in and adapt to it. They had a midfielder in Harry Arter, who prompted and probed throughout the ninety minutes and was by far the most accomplished player on the field. We had Lee Cattermole who is horribly exposed in that two man midfield and who compares badly with the technically superior Yann M’Vila.
In fact, all of the European players look technically better than the British ones. All can control a ball first time, all can spot a pass and all must be exasperated by the lack of movement and pace from many of their British colleagues. But, when you throw teams together as we do and change the manager as frequently as we do, is it any surprise that clubs like Bournemouth, Stoke City and Southampton flourish.
Jack enjoyed his speedy journey home, reading his programme as avidly as I read the Football Echo as my train trundled through Brandon, Willington, Hunwick and Bishop Auckland before we were deposited at Shildon station. I enjoyed a promotion in my first season; poor Jack looks likely to suffer a relegation.