15th September 2017, 8pm
Sometimes, a result is more important than a performance. It is an old cliché but like all old clichés it's there because its a truism. Tonight, a Bournemouth side that couldn't buy a win came from behind to beat a dogged Brighton side. It flowed like the Nile until the last third of the pitch where it turned into a tap with a slow rusting washer...... and some old frailties were still there... but the team dug in and got the three points necessary to keep in touch with the pack.
A much speculated about selection process saw Eddie revert to the 4-4-1-1 and as many Championship personnel as possible. Standard fayre when he gets in a crisis. Back came Pugh, Surman, Francis - Cook missing out with a knee knock and it was a very familiar looking set up.
It started that way too with Pugh and Daniels weaving their old transitional switches down the left hand side and the back four playing high and penning Brighton in. The final ball was frequently poor though and resembling the game of attack and defence training exercise the whole thing started again. The first chance fell to Brighton on their first break - Knockaert firing wide.
At the other end the frustration of the crowd grew as time and time again a 70 pass move would eventually find a winger to either fall over and lose it at the optimum crossing moment (Pugh) or fall over and lose it at the optimum crossing moment (Fraser). Defoe and King were looking forlorn as Brighton defended so deep they had no space and just ran sideways and sideways pointing at a channel nobody could see.
A rare mistake from Duffy let King fire but Dunk blocked bravely and Pugh sliced wide when well placed. Arter was having another misfiring game and he presented the ball to the impressive Knockeart but his beautiful chip grazed the top of the net.
Bournemouth's second best spell of the match came just before the whistle. The passes started to speed up a little and Defoe was finally given a sniff that he thumped inches wide with no back-lift to a nice ooh from the crowd. Again though, final balls were awful, particularly from wee man.
HT Bournemouth 0 Brighton 0
Bournemouth were very sleepy after the break and seemed to have lost all their zap. Their inability to defend any form of set piece looked like it was coming to haunt them but Surman cleared off the line from the unmarked Duffy's header before an even bigger scare came when Stephens stole in unmarked from the next set-piece to head against the underside of the crossbar. Both contacts were met near the six yard box with Begovic refusing to come off his line.
Brighton were really dominant and Bournemouth's shape had fallen apart and the inevitable goal arrived. MARCH is not renowned for his heading prowess but his bonce connected with Gross's cross six yards out again with Begovic rooted to his line.
Make or break time for Bournemouth really and Eddie made an inspired move taking off an off-colour wee-man for the unpredictable Ibe. The ex-Liverpool wideman turned this game on it's head as the home side had a ten minute purple patch born out of desperation.
First his clever back heel 1-2 to SURMAN saw the maligned midfielder weave into the Brighton box and pass the ball into the bottom corner with his trusty left boot. His first premiership goal for the club.
Game on and with the home team now starting to find crisp passing the second wasn't far behind. Again it was Ibe who was pivotal, controlling a high clearance from a corner, slipping between two men and playing a slide-rule pass to DEFOE. Once the diminutive hit man moved onto the ball you knew what was coming......one smote of his right boot and the ball was across Ryan and into the net to send the crowd wild.
Afobe came on for a lively cameo for Defoe and Bournemouth looked safe, a few defensive slips from Franno aside. A collective roar of relief greeting the final whistle.
FT Bournemouth 2 Brighton 1
Begovic 5 - Not commanding six yard box at all.
Smith 6 - Some bright attacking moments but a little shaky at times.
Francis 5 - Very slippy and off -colour performance from skip.
Ake 8 - Back to his best and dominant on ground and in air.
Daniels 7 - Nice link play, solid defending, classy.
Fraser 4 - Awful I thought. Always knocked onto butt and wayward.
Arter 5 - Misfiring passes left right and centre. Kept working.
Surman 7 - Grew into classy passing and pick of midfield. Scored!
Pugh 6 - Flattered to deceive at times but kept at it.
King 5 - Not at the races at all. Badly out of sorts.
Defoe 6 - Looking very disjointed but only needs service as shown!
Subs - Ibe 8 - great to see, intelligent and hurting opposition. Afobe 7 - a great disrupter to bring on.
Positives - Three points. Ake back to best. Defoe getting the monkey off his back with a vintage strike but above all did we have a game changing Sky TV performance from Ibe that will have the galvanising effect on him and the relationship with us that Fraser enjoyed after Liverpool last year.
Negatives - Still very laboured with precious little chance creation. Francis continued poor form as did Arter, Fraser and King. All massive players for us and the system just doesn't seem to be working for them. Begovic as well - how hard is it to come for a cross when you are his size?
So, much to ponder for Eddie as he get's ready for the trip to Everton (reserve game against Brighton in the week aside). He will know that play like today there, and against Spurs and we will be on three points after 7 games and deep in the doo-doo. My view on it is simples. No point playing two up top unless you get the ball forwards quickly. If you want to do it with a lot of pretty intricate passing it will break down with the front two/four all standing with their back to goal, impotent and frustrated.
If you want to do it this way you need a 5 man midfield and one up top. Like against Man City. We are playing the wrong style for our formation - particularly now with Defoe who doesn't link or do channels - you get the ball to him. This leaves King with nobody to dovetail with and we have gained one great goalscorer at the expense of the other so net off neutral just with less movement.
Central midfield deficiencies still there and we still wonder what Cook has to do to get a game - another reason to play three. Do that though and one of King or Defoe has to go....unless you can persuade King to be a winger again - maybe with Ibe as a dynamic front three. The other option is (and I never thought I'd say this) you may need Afobe if you want to go two up top so you have a different threat...
Three points, the joy of a comeback against local rivals, a blessed relief but still much to do to get the season back on track I feel. Still - let's just enjoy the moment, they are hard to come by in this league!