After a few days of scare stories about bad weather that could lead to another postponement, it was a relief to have a pleasant drive down to the South Coast and lovely weather for my walk across town from the hotel to the pre-match pub. The pub itself was another little gem. The back room used to be a boxing gym, and was rather lovely. The bar staff were friendly and welcoming. The clincher for me, though, was the Rosie’s Pig. Delicious. Bournemouth was a new stadium for me, so I was looking forward to the visit. It is quite a neat little ground. They have decorated the inside of the ends of each stand with pictures of players, which is a nice touch, although it has to be said that they didn’t appear to be from particularly classic games. The away fans were located at one end of a stand down one side of the ground and were very close to the pitch which, despite the rain, appeared to be in excellent condition.
Sannino made three changes from Tuesday’s cup replay, so the starting line-up was Almunia, Ekstrand, Hall, Angella, Pudil, McGugan, Iriney, Battocchio, Faraoni, Fabbrini and Deeney. Main team news for Bournemouth was that their top scorer, Grabban, was recalled having signed a new contract after a brief flirtation with Brighton. Other pre-match news was that, due to colour clashes involving both our home and away kit, we were playing in all yellow. The only time I can remember seeing that colour combination before was due to some Boothroyd bloody-mindedness at Charlton. From memory, the game that day was awful.
The home team threatened first, but Pugh failed to get on the end of a dangerous cross from Ritchie. Watford’s first chance came through a counter-attack. Fabbrini broke forward, he was tackled but the ball fell to Battocchio who advanced down the right and crossed to McGugan in the box, but Lewis swung his boot and didn’t get a decent connection so the shot flew wide. The referee went back and booked Ritchie for felling Fabbrini. On 16 minutes, Battocchio found Fabbrini on the right, his low cross was put out for a corner from which the ball fell to Battocchio, who squared to Faraoni whose cross was easily caught by Camp in the Bournemouth goal. Soon after, repeated attempts to break down a Bournemouth attack failed and Surman was able to fashion a shot from the edge of the box but it was wide of the target. On 24 minutes, Iriney went down injured. I
have criticised his contributions in the past, but he had been immense in this game so far and his substitution was very bad news, even if his replacement was Abdi. Bournemouth threatened again through Ritchie who advanced into the box, but the attentions of Pudil ensured that his shot was well over the bar. Angella then joined the attack but, when his cross was cut out, it left our defence weakened allowing Grabban to break and cut the ball back for Ritchie whose shot was deflected over. Camp was called into action for the first time as a Battocchio shot was deflected and the keeper had to dive to push it around the post. The corner was headed out to Pudil, but his shot was horribly reminiscent of McGugan’s mishit earlier in the game. A back header from Abdi reached Surman who broke forward and found Pugh in space but he shot well over when he really should have
tested Almunia. Five minutes before the break, Angella found Fabbrini who turned and shot over. On 44 minutes, Grabban was through but could not quite connect with a cross from Ritchie. Then, on the stroke of half time, McGugan was taken down on the left. He took the free-kick himself and Angella rose highest to nod it past Camp. We were somewhat fortunate to be ahead, but it was a great time to score. At the start of second half, McGugan pulled up requiring treatment although he was able to continue. Then Abdi passed to Fabbrini whose through ball deflected to Deeney, but Troy’s shot was blocked and went out for a
corner. On 50 minutes, the injury got the better of McGugan and he was replaced by Murray. The youngster was in action almost immediately putting in a low cross that was met with a shot from Hall which was blocked. At the other end, a good sliding tackle from Ekstrand prevented Grabban from getting on the end of a cross from Pugh. On the hour, Grabban broke into the Watford box, where he was jostled and eventually pulled to the ground. The referee didn’t give the penalty immediately but, after consulting with the linesman, he pointed to the spot and sent Angella off. There was some confusion from the stands as to who the recipient of the red card was, and some argument on the pitch about the decision, but eventually the Italian walked. It was Grabban himself
who stepped up to take the penalty, and he made no mistake, shooting straight down the middle with Almunia diving to his left. Straight from the restart, Bournemouth were on the attack again but Faraoni was alert and headed the cross clear. Then Surman latched onto a pass from O’Kane but shot well over the bar. Bournemouth had a great chance to take the lead as Pugh cut the ball back to Daniels in the box, but his shot curled just wide. On 70 minutes, another penalty was awarded. Pugh broke into the box and should have shot but, instead went to ground in a dramatic fashion. Protests from the travelling fans and the Watford players fell on deaf ears and only led to a yellow card for Almunia. At this point a group of Watford fans who had gathered in front of the seats surged forward and started tussling with the stewards who were standing behind the advertising hoardings and some idiot threw a smoke bomb onto the pitch that was removed by Almunia. When everything had calmed down, Grabban stepped up again, but justice was done as Almunia dived to his right to save. The Spaniard then did brilliantly, standing tall to block the follow-up from Ritchie and then dropping to save an O’Kane shot from the edge of the box. On 77 minutes, Pugh was replaced by Pitman and left the field to loud boos from the travelling Hornets. At the same time, Rantie replaced Surman and Anya came on for
Fabbrini. With 10 minutes remaining, Almunia parried a long-range shot from Ritchie then dropped to gather the ball with Grabban and Pitman challenging. The latter was adjudged to have come in too hard on the keeper and was shown a yellow card. Bournemouth continued to threaten as O’Kane fed Daniels on the left, but his cross was cut out by Hall. From the corner, Arter handled in his own box, was penalized and another argument broke out on the field in what was becoming a bad tempered game both on and off the field. Then Watford launched an attack as Deeney broke and hit a ball over to Anya who cut in from the bye-line but couldn’t find a pass and the ball went out for a goal kick. In the last minute of normal time, the Cherries should have won the game as Rantie cut the ball back to Ritchie who unleashed a powerful shot, but Pudil threw himself in front of the ball and saved the day. From the corner, the ball fell to Pitman whose shot just cleared Almunia’s bar. There was 7 minutes of time added on, so plenty of time for a winner. For Bournemouth, Pitman tried a chip, but it was straight at Almunia. Then the ball fell to Deeney in the box, but his shot was deflected into the side netting. At this point, it became clear that defending the point was the priority for the visitors as the corner was taken with 4 Watford players on the half way line. In the last minute, Daniels got his head to a corner but it drifted over the bar.
At the final whistle, 8 stewards escorted the referee as he left the pitch, which seemed excessive since he was walking towards the home stand. For all the complaints about the penalties and the performance of the referee, we were quite fortunate to come away with a point from that game. But what will live longer in the memory was the unpleasant atmosphere in the away end. There were scuffles both with stewards and among some Watford fans who got into an argument about one bloke who insisted on standing about half way up when all around him were seated. Another Watford fan threw a bottle that hit one of our disabled supporters. Due to the disorder, the fans in wheelchairs were moved to sit with the home fans. One fan also threw the ball hard at one of the Bournemouth players who was about to take a throw-in. Unnecessary and unpleasant, and I have to give credit to the player in question who didn’t react. I also thought the stewards did a tremendous job. As they investigated the scuffle in the crowd near us, they did so in a reasonable manner and were very pleasant to those in the area. The Leicester stewards should take a lesson from these guys. Coming up, we have the prospect of another away trip, this time to Man City. The post-match realization that we are now on a run of seven away draws was soon nullified by the news that City had scored another 4 goals. I have to admit that my head is telling me to go to Vicarage Road to see the Youth Cup game next Saturday, but there is that niggling “what if?” that will ensure I travel to Manchester. I hope they are gentle with us.