Cherries On The Brink – For All The Right Reasons

I’m really surprised that the old ‘unpredictable’ cliches weren’t rolled out on the Football League Show on Saturday night, although the presence of Alan Curbishley clearly intimidated Steve Claridge. After five hours of action, Watford were promoted to the Premier League after beating Brighton but before arriving back at Vicarage Road and I’ve no idea how to describe what happened at Fulham other than a disaster for Middlesbrough and an unexpected bonus for Bournemouth. It made me wonder if this weekend’s blanket coverage of the last games of the season could be a massive anti-climax.

If Bournemouth beat Bolton tonight (7:45pm kick off, SS1), then the Cherries superior goal difference means that Middlesbrough would have to win by a hatful of goals against Brighton on Saturday to stand any chance of promotion. Eddie Howe’s side haven’t lost in the league at Dean Court since mid January whilst Wanderers have only won two of their last ten aways in the same period. So everything seems set up for Bournemouth to take a giant step towards a promotion that would have seemed inconceivable a few seasons ago.

At least it looks that way. However…Wanderers have only lost two of their last five trips to Dorset and the Cherries haven’t beaten Bolton since April 1991. Bournemouth’s long home unbeaten run is nine games, which means a home reverse is very much on the course; the reaction following Sheffield Wednesday‘s late equaliser on the South Coast a couple of weeks ago indicated to me then that a remarkable season is actually on the brink of imploding due to the intense pressure on the Bournemouth squad.

Once again, long term trends support a most unlikely promotion. The main one is being top at close of play Boxing Day and that’s where Bournemouth were; it’s remarkable how similar the table looked after 23 games. All of the teams remaining in the playoff hunt were in the top six and three of the current bottom four were in the relegation spots.

So all things being considered, this is arguably the biggest game in Bournemouth’s history. I’m going to make an exception tonight and watch MNF with my customary post-weeked Chinese takeaway.

I’ll be back with an update later and – how about this – a post tomorrow!

Update: unless something truly bizarre happens at the weekend, Bournemouth will be promoted regardless of other results.

Author: Mike Roberts

A football fan since the 1970s, I take my inspiration from the standard of writing that made Shoot! magazine streets ahead of anything else back in the day. I'm also a complete and utter stathead, which I blame on being exposed to American sports at the end of my teens.