Review by Phil Sawyer (Twitter: @sawyer_phil)
Joshua King was Bournemouth’s hero as they finally recorded their first win of 2017 in a gripping encounter with West Ham United. Man of the match King, and his strike partner Benick Afobe, both missed first half penalties, but the team dug deep and rescued all three points amid yet more late drama at Dean Court.
The Cherries started brilliantly, dominating early exchanges and looked to get their just rewards for early pressure when Charlie Daniels’ advance was halted by a foul in the area. King, usually so reliable from spot kicks, uncharacteristically dragged his penalty wide. To compound the misery, West Ham swept forward less than a minute later and took the lead through Antonio’s well taken spin and finish.
Heads could have dropped and there was a sinking feeling amongst the fans, but Eddie Howe’s team rallied superbly and refused to allow Slaven Bilic’s Hammers any chance to consolidate their lead. Instead, King found redemption with a pivotal goal after 31 minutes. Good work from Dan Gosling on the right lead to the ball being centred to King, and the Norwegian buried his left-footed shot after a deft flick over his marker.
It looked like the home side would go into the lead when another Bournemouth attack down the left flank resulted in a second penalty award – but when Afobe assumed responsibility, his effort, again from 12 yards, missed, saved this time by the goalkeepers dive to his right. Having converted all seven of their previous penalties, it was looking like yet another frustrating afternoon for a Bournemouth team who have struggled for a break in recent weeks.
Eddie Howe clearly got his message across during half time. Just three minutes after the restart his team took a deserved lead. The first half had shown AFCB to be the better side, and when King calmly slotted home after Afobe knocked down a free kick, the turnaround looked complete and the hosts could seek to press their advantage.
Things are rarely that simple for this Bournemouth team, however, and they contrived to let West Ham back into the game with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Obiang found Byram with a cute pass and when the right back squared the ball, Ayew found himself with the freedom of the penalty area and duly converted.
The Cherries have proved, time and again, that they have a depth of self-belief and that never-say-die attitude. This, combined with a smart substitution by Howe, played a big part in the winning goal. The freshly introduced Jack Wilshire burst through midfield, exchanged passes with Pugh, and although he saw his shot well saved, King was on hand to smash the ball into the roof of the net and grab his hat trick. Unbelievably, it was the 23rd goal West Ham ‘keeper Randolf has conceded against Bournemouth in just five games, and King became the 3rd AFCB player to walk away with the match ball from those fixtures.
It was a great win for all those connected with the club, with Howe admitting his overriding feeling was one of relief at the final whistle. This was certainly the sense in the stands, where the sentiment was that AFCB have finally turned a corner after a disappointing start to the year. King was the key figure, but the whole team did itself proud and snatched an important three points. All those in attendance were treated to yet another grandstand finish at Dean Court, surely the most exciting place to watch football in the country.