Following the disappointment of defeat at the hands of an incompetent referee on Saturday, Town produced yet another unrewarded but satisfying performance at Dean Court to add further frustration to a season where the team has clearly shown significant improvement individually and collectively while simultaneously appearing to be in greater danger.
Bournemouth, enjoying their best Premier League season so far, may have been physically and mentally drained after stretching Manchester City at the weekend but they raced in to a seemingly ominous 2 goal lead after 20 minutes with the first coming as a direct result of more poor officiating as the linesman gave an incomprehensible free kick for the home side and then another in quick succession. From the second free kick, the same linesman failed to spot a pretty clear offside as Wilson headed the Cherries in front.
After further scares at the back – a flicked King header was only just wide and a Wilson shot was deflected fortuitously by Zanka – Town were beginning to settle down when a poor ball from Billing was intercepted and played up to Wilson who found the raiding Fraser with an excellent ball and the Scotsman finished the devastatingly quick move before Town had a chance to recover their shape.
To their credit, the visitors didn’t let the double setback affect them and they proceeded to dominate the game almost entirely from that moment.
Retaining possession and using it progressively and aggressively, they should have halved the arrears within minutes as first Billing was denied by a deflection and then Pritchard by Begovic from the subsequent corner before an incisive move involving Mooy, Depoitre and Hadergjonaj saw the wing back put in a perfect cross for the Belgian only for his header to be put too close to Begovic who, nevertheless, made a good save.
The Bosnian also denied Mooy from a free kick but with less than 10 minutes to go until half time, Town deservedly clawed their way back in to the game when Mooy picked up a second ball following a half cleared corner and crossed in to the still heavily populated area. The first head up was Schindler, who flicked the ball further in to the box for Zanka who out jumped his marker and found the final member of Town’s defensive triumvirate, Kongolo whose header looped over Begovic’s despairing clawing and in to the net.
It was the least Town deserved after an awful first 20 minutes where little went right for the visitors – particularly as yet another poor decision (indeed, decisions) conspired against them yet again. The second, which was superbly executed by Bournemouth’s exciting front men, stemmed from a very poor mistake up the pitch – and one which would have been seen as a cardinal error against this particular opponent who can hurt you very badly if unshackled.
Other than a breakaway which saw King waste an opportunity for the hosts, the second half belonged to the West Yorkshire side.
Unfortunately, much of the excellent work between the boxes floundered at the sharp end of the pitch, though Begovic had to make some interventions and Ake marshalled his increasingly beleaguered defence well (it is to be hoped that his talent is not stripped away from Bournemouth, where he has flourished, but, sadly, he will surely be a major target of the super rich clubs in January).
Anybody watching on would not have guessed that it was the team in red and black who were about to enter the top six after the game, rather than the team completely dominating possession, forcing error after error and making all the running but they may have had an inkling that the ruthlessness of the home side was the decisive factor.
A very annoyed Billing was replaced on 75 minutes by Sabiri who was immediately injured with his first contact with play – we have had all the luck this season – and forced Wagner to replace him with Sobhi. Kongolo had been replaced by Mbenza at the same time as Town’s need for 3 central defenders had long since disappeared, but the changes didn’t bring any increased threat to the home goal and the Cherries saw out the game to their evident relief.
Though Wagner denied his side had deserved anything from the game, on the basis of the defensive errors and attacking shortfalls, those of us who witnessed the game came away with great pride that in the face of adversity, the Terriers played with a conviction and aggression which totally subdued a very good Bournemouth side who simply couldn’t gain any foothold in the game after the first, disastrous, 20 minutes.
As has often been the case this season, the performance relative to the same fixture last season was massively improved, making the defeat even more disappointing. Pyrrhic victories garner no points.
Wagner was a little harsh on the defenders – they were let down by a linesman and a midfielder – but the lack of a goalscorer is an entrenched, debilitating problem. Depoitre’s general play wasn’t at all bad but, like Mounié, is failing in his prime purpose.
There is hope, however. When on song, Town can control games with an iron grip and the bad luck which seems to have followed the club around for much of the season must surely turn at some point.
On to the free hit at the Emirates – a huge challenge, but on this showing, maybe not entirely hopeless?