I think – ok I know – that I mentioned in my Wigan report that there didn’t used to be so much live football on TV. I also recently wrote a rant about Monday Night Football for TSLR during which it became obvious that we now have football on the telly every day of the week. Or at least some weeks we do. Some of these games will sell themselves to a neutral audience of course. Arsenal versus Spurs? Who could resist. Barcelona versus Man United in the Champions League? Telly booked, beers purchased. Fleetwood versus Port Vale in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy (Northern Section) Round 1? Compulsive viewing.
However there are some games that must be a lot harder to sell to the general public. Like, say, a Saturday lunchtime match between the sides lying 16th and 9th in the Championship. You can mention both sides are from the South Coast but then so is Torquay. If they’re not our rivals then Bournemouth certainly aren’t either. I imagine Watford is nearer as the crow flies. My only “encounter” with Bournemouth fans was as a sixteen year old when a coach load of their fans drove past me on its way to the Goldstone. They were all…………..sitting politely reading their papers. A couple of years later I was on a coach to Elland Road, Leeds when another coach full of Leeds fans overtook us and the charmers on that banged the windows and made throat slitting gestures.
You could mention we both play “nice football” and indeed the commentators did during the game but, for me, we are both still a work in progress. You can mention our new investors and new grounds. Ultimately though, you can’t escape the feeling that the game was selected simply because it was our turns. I had no idea how they would sell it to the public. Luckily I didn’t have to listen to them try.
I spent “the build up” in the freezing cold garden of a local gastro pub where two of the mums from the boy’s school were taking photos of the kids with Christmas Face Paint on for a Christmas Card. Yes, I really was having that much fun. I had booked our ‘slot’ specifically so we could get back in time to watch the game. However, as we arrived it became clear that they were a) running late and b) had the game on the tv.
Trying to persuade a face painted three year old that you wanted to stay in the pub for the football is not the world’s simplest thing, however, and so it was that we instead went on a mad dash back home. As I got in and switched on the game it had been going for a minute and it seemed nothing much had happened in that minute. If a goal had been scored, especially by us, this section would have been a bit more ranty.
Talking of Rantie he seemed to be giving us a few problems. As did Matt Ritchie. And indeed anyone with any pace or, for that matter, just wearing a red shirt. Bournemouth came out for the first half with all of their metaphorical guns blazing. We were still in the Guest House, lazily munching on the rest of the toast and baked beans and wondering if the owner, Mrs Cruetbonce, had anything to read that wasn’t the Daily Mail. All except for the Pole In Goal, who made a marvellous reflex save, Calde who had our best chance of the first half, narrowly volleying over from the edge of the box and the Magnificent Rohan Ince. He wasn’t still at the Guest House. He had got up early, gone for a short run to warm up and now wanted to extend himself. Having missed Mrs Cruetbonce’s breakfast he also wanted to devour a few red shirted Bournemouth players as he went. Metaphorically that is.
So dominant was Ince in our midfield that it only showed how weakly the rest were performing. Inevitably we got ourselves in a mess of our own making close to our own penalty area and JFC, who was having a nightmare, committed a fairly obvious foul. Inevitably again, the returning Matt Ritchie was set up to crack a magnificent drive in to the bottom corner with the outside of his foot. Great goal and no more than Bournemouth deserved. 1-0.
Oscar made the needed change at half time, Bridcutt coming on for JFC, and we looked immediately more settled. Not more pacy – this was one game where our lack of pace was to be shown up – but more able to cope. We retained the ball better, broke up their attacks better and actually had a few moments of our own. My wife chose this precise moment to want to tell me something about…something. I’m not sure what it was but by the time she’d finished telling me it was 1-1. I huffily wound back the Sky + to see one of the goals of this or any other season from Ashley Barnes.
Yes, Ashley Barnes. If you read North Stand Chat regularly you’d be forgiven for thinking that Barnes is some kind of evil spirit who’s only function is to take up a spot in the team that someone else deserves, whilst deliberately missing chances. He’s never been anything of the sort of course – he works as part of a team in a formation that is again starting to pay dividends – but his lack of goals are always held against him. So much so, in fact, that I had, only that morning, written a gag about it for TSLR. Let’s just say I had to rewrite the gag. The strike that levelled the match was magnificent. Rarely have I seen a ball better struck. As Tom North said on twitter, if it had been in the Prem people would never have stopped talking about it.
Either side could have gone on to win it. Ritchie should have done much better with one bouncing ball in the penalty box but he shanked it horribly. At the other end Craig Conway finally woke up and crafted a couple of delightful runs and crosses from the left but no one was brave or lucky enough to get on the end of them. The aforementioned Ince eventually came off, looking completely spent, to be replaced by Andrews who again looked completely useless and that was that. 1-1. Fair result in the game they’re already calling ‘the one no one cares about’.