THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Cherries must learn from Watford thrashing

icon bournemouth1317 August ~ In 1984, AFC Bournemouth beat FA Cup holders Manchester United 2-0 at Dean Court in a win that presaged the greatest period in the club's history. Bournemouth were never going to win the FA Cup, but taking three points against current FA Cup holders Wigan this Saturday is achievable and would show that surpassing the feats of Harry Redknapp's team in the late 1980s is possible. Last season, current manager Eddie Howe emulated Redknapp in securing promotion to the second tier.

After an unlikely pre-season that included friendlies against FC Zurich and Real Madrid, Bournemouth began their Championship campaign against Charlton confidently, with a 2-1 win.

That victory was achieved without club captain Tommy Elphick, who was surprisingly left on the bench as new signing Elliott Ward got a first start in defence. Ward did not fare particularly well and Elphick, one of Bournemouth's best players last season, returned for the League Cup match with Portsmouth only to pick up an injury before the next league fixture at Watford. Bournemouth seemed to be continuing a confident start in the first half at Vicarage Road, only to crumble in the second when Elphick's presence would have helped stem a 6-1 thrashing.

That game offered valuable lessons ahead of playing another team likely to be in the top six at the end of the season. Bournemouth certainly have no reason to fear Wigan: last season, the two clubs played each other in the third round of the FA Cup and Bournemouth claimed a deserved 1-1 away draw and were unfortunate to be edged out 1-0 in the replay at home.

What may hinder Bournemouth on Saturday is a lack of options up front. Bournemouth have three recognised strikers but both Brett Pitman and Wes Thomas started out on the bench at Watford. Neither has scored in a competitive game this season unlike Lewis Grabban, who appears to have rediscovered his ability to find the net.

Howe persevered with Grabban last season despite a frustrating inability to score and has been rewarded this season with three goals in two league matches. With Ryan Fraser looking an impressive signing on the wing, home fans will want to see two strikers up front as Bournemouth seek to quickly restore confidence and show what could really be achieved this season. With a squad of good players, including the excellent but injured Matt Ritchie, and Russian investors willing to back Howe in his search for another striker, more than simply avoiding relegation must be possible. Steve Menary

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