Stephen Purches Testimonial Game
Dean Court, Bournemouth
Programme : £3.00
Match Rating: 2
For my second game of this pre-season, I decided to finally tick off a visit to Dean Court after two previous attempts were thwarted after travelling to Bournemouth. Even today's visit looked in doubt en route, as train services descended into chaos in the Portsmouth area thanks to trespassers on the line. Happily I had allowed myself plenty of time and arrived with half an hour to spare.
Dean Court is located about a twenty minute walk from Pokesdown rail station and is set in the middle of the large King's Park containing various other sporting facilities. It is a ground that has been completely redeveloped since the Millennium and so perhaps it is no surprise that it offers very good spectator facilities, with good legroom, plenty of incline between rows and no obstructing pillars - yet despite a neat and tidy appearance, it is a thoroughly boring stadium devoid of any character or charm. All three stands currently functional are very similar in size and design, although the main stand - where I was seated - contains corporate boxes along the back. One nice touch was large action photos from key historical games on the inside of each end of the stands. Behind one of the goals, a new stand is in construction. Only the outer shell was standing today, although the stand is planned to be ready for use by the start of the season. The programme was very good by pre-season standards, 56 pages with a glossy hardened cover, although it was understandably mostly focused on Stephen Purches, whose testimonial it was today.
These are exciting times for AFC Bournemouth, preparing for life back in the Championship, having been promoted in second place. Unbelievably, they also have a friendly against Real Madrid to look forward to next Sunday at Dean Court, with a ticket price of £60 not preventing the game from selling out within a few hours of going on general sale. For today's game, Bournemouth's squad was augmented by three 'special guests' - John Purches, brother of Stephen, former England midfielder Darren Anderton, who finished his career at Bournemouth, and recently retired Steve Fletcher, who made 728 appearances for Bournemouth, a club record. West Ham United, who finished in tenth place in the Premiership last season, brought their full first team squad today, although Andy Carroll would play no part as he is currently sidelined with a heel injury.
On a blisteringly hot afternoon, with temperatures nudging close to 30c, it was no surprise that this game was very slow paced, although Bournemouth were incredibly clumsy and sloppy in possession. West Ham did show their class at times with some cute touches, and on nine minutes they took the lead with quite a simple goal, the ball was crossed from the right by Ricardo Vaz Te and the unmarked Kevin Nolan guided his header perfectly past the keeper and into the net from 8 yards. They came very close to extending their lead on three occasions before they finally did in stoppage time at the end of the first half. A low ball forward through a very high defensive line went towards a player in an offside position, but he left the ball for Jack Collison to run onto the ball from an onside position and ran unopposed towards the goalkeeper before showing excellent composure in taking his time to toy with the keeper before going round him and slotting into an empty net.
The second half was even more tepid than the first. Both sides had half chances to score, but the most exciting events were the introductions of Joe Cole, Stephen Purches, Anderton and Fletcher, the latter two getting the last ten minutes of action and who almost combined to score. But in the end, West Ham claimed a leisurely and comfortable victory which could have been a lot more convincing. Bournemouth were poor today, although not much can be read into a testimonial game three weeks before the start of the league season, and the afternoon was certainly a success in terms of showing appreciation to a long term club servant.
Video highlights at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fgbm8Dh7xQ