A promo email from AFC Bournemouth arrived a couple of weeks ago, publicising the availability of tickets for the club’s Premier League match against Crystal Palace. As we can just see the Selhurst Park stadium from our rear first floor windows at home, it meant just a short drive to see the Cherries from the stands once more.
I arrived in good time on a very chilly Saturday afternoon and joined the large contingent of good-natured Bournemouth fans in the Arthur Wait stand on the Park Road side of the ground. After a quick cup of hot tea, I took up my place towards the front block 7 as the team warmed up near us. The Palace eagle proved a pleasant diversion as it flew between its handlers positioned in the respective goals, while it was good to hear the new version of Streets of London by Ralph McTell, Annie Lennox and the Crisis Choir receive an airing over the P.A. prior to kick-off.
The match started with both sides looking for an early breakthrough and it was Bournemouth who scored first thanks to an excellent corner routine, which was dispatched by Jermain Defoe. He should have scored a second when clean through, but a last ditch tackle by Tomkins prevented him from scoring. This appeared to be a turning point as a punt upfield from the home team enabled Zaha to sweep into the away team’s box and win a very dubious penalty near the goal line. This was put away with aplomb by Milivojevic and worse was to follow for the Cherries, courtesy of a second Palace goal by Scott Dann. However, a searching pass by new hero Lewis Cook put Defoe through again and he brilliantly lobbed Julian Speroni in the Palace goal to ensure the score was level at half-time.
A second cup of excellent tea kept some of the cold at bay and I returned to my seat (not that I sat for any of the game) as the second half got underway. Chances came and went for both teams and once Defoe scuffed his chance of a hat-trick, a series of substitutions altered the nature of the flow towards the home goal. Zaha continued in his role as pantomime villain for the away fans, but his teasing runs generated little end-product and a draw seemed a likely result.
Into five minutes of injury time and one last tackle too many gave the erratic referee – Kevin Friend – the chance to award Palace a second penalty. Christian Benteke demanded the ball and, against team orders, shaped to take the kick. However, happily, his poor effort was saved by Amir Begovic diving to his right and the match finished all square. Whilst Bournemouth were eventually glad to escape with a point, it felt a missed chance to nail a win before a difficult run of games against teams in the League’s top six.