Another Saturday, another Sheffield press box. Having successfully produced my first sports section for the Forge Press, and after having endured another week of shorthand training plus a law test that obviously went terribly, my reward was this third vs. fourth clash in League One at Hillsborough.
Following my last visit for the Chesterfield match (see below) I again had high expectations of this grand old stadium, but the day as whole was a bit of a let-down. The press facilities were far superior to those at Bramall Lane, yes, but the performance of the home side was very disappointing and they were fortunate in my view to gain the point which keeps them fourth in the table.
It would be a travesty, on this evidence, if the Cherries don’t earn their second successive promotion. Eddie Howe, one of the youngest managers in the Football League, has them playing the right way and their fluid, passing style, as well as being pleasing on the eye, caused Wednesday endless problems. It took a stern half-time chat from Alan Irvine, plus the introduction of Gary Teale and Neil Mellor, to change the game but even the most optimistic Owls supporter will admit there is a lot of work still to be done.
Having walked past a number of plush executive suites serving Yorkshire takes on a banquet dinner, my hopes for the press lounge were growing. Could the rumours of complimentary pie and chips be true? Or would it be a repeat of the sole stone cold egg and cress sandwich offering of last week, served in a shed tacked precariously onto the end of the south stand? The first signs were positive – Dean Windass, who was doing the cushy number for ex-pros that is Soccer Saturday (me and Jon, the guy with me had hoped for Chris Kamara, but you can’t be too choosy), was in there and he was clearly waiting expectantly for something.
Then a steaming hot dollop of mushy peas was plonked on the table. Well, interesting take on dinner but encouraging. Followed by a great big tray of chunky, golden brown chips. That would have been more than sufficient to be honest–chips and mushy peas – much better than last week already. Then a dish of steaming gravy arrived. Nice to have a choice with your chips, thanks very much. Oh my God, wait, there’s more. A slab of the most delicious-looking steak pie – crisp pastry surface with the suggestion, at the caught edges, of thick northern gravy oozing out and tender cuts of steak sizzling underneath – made its grand entrance. And another slab. And another slab. I’ve never seen a group of people so readily drop everything they were doing and form a crude queue.
The fare didn’t disappoint, though Windass was behind me in the line and, well, he was obviously hungry. The established order was chips-mushy peas-pie but I went chips-pie-mushy peas. It was a schoolboy error, meaning I had to cut back across Windass. He didn’t look pleased and muttered something in northern. I skulked off and tried not to catch his eye after that...
Restaurant review over, what else to report? Well, Hillsborough’s Wi-Fi is dreadful and I had to do the Forge Twitter updates on my phone which is tricky with such fiddly, frozen fingers. The pros around us just shrugged – it’s a common problem apparently here – and got out their dongles. A dongle being a gadget that gets wireless internet anywhere, not what you thought.
Irvine went with Clinton Morrison up front and the big target man was frankly awful, unceremoniously hauled off at half-time after misplacing pretty much every pass. 3/10 was Jon’s rating. Couldn’t really disagree. Bournemouth, backed by a decent following who had probably been on the road since before dawn, were fluid and confident going forward and created all the openings before the break. They also scored when defender Ryan Garry, left scandalously unmarked eight yards out, turned the ball in from a corner. The locals weren’t happy and the loud boos at the half-time whistle said it all. The atmosphere had been flat throughout: there was no band and the Kop seemed content to sit in polite silence until their team did something. I was disappointed by this, especially given how brilliant the atmosphere was for the Chesterfield game.
Irvine clearly had a stern word at the turnaround and Wednesday were a different proposition afterwards. With Teale rampant down the left, they finally gained an equaliser, having seen a considerable number of chances go begging, with five minutes left – Mellor finishing well from about six yards.
Entering the post-match conference, I turned to Jon and said: “Alan Irvine will use the phrase ‘It was a game of two halves.’” After Howe’s pointless 55-second cameo, Irvine walked in, sat down and, with his first words: “It was a genuine game of two halves.” CRINGE.
Next Match: Sheffield United or Sheffield FC on Saturday I would imagine as Boston aren’t in action again.