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Mitchell's Verdict: Yeovil Town 1 AFC Bournemouth 1
IN the end, nobody went home happy.
As fraught desperation gradually crept into efforts at either end, the inevitability that a much-needed victory would elude both teams became increasingly apparent.
But while frustration reigned at Huish Park, there was good reason for Cherries to be happier with their share of the spoils in the cold light of day.
Having arrived on the back of five victories earned through relentless pressure which had flustered some of the Championship’s more illustrious names, Cherries found themselves on the receiving end against pumped-up minnows Yeovil.
Despite having started the day six points adrift of safety and bottom of the table, the home side smacked of a team with nothing to lose, their display reminiscent of the super-charged approach Cherries had delighted their supporters with over the past few weeks.
Whether it was down to the sudden spike in expectation, the exertions of their recent run or just a bad day at the office, the apprehensive visitors were caught cold and despite good spells of possession, struggled to match the Glovers’ intensity.
How different it might have been had Matt Ritchie burst Yeovil’s bubble with just two minutes on the clock.
Lewis Grabban played a quick one-two with strike partner Yann Kermorgant and got the better of Byron Webster down the left channel before rolling in a perfectly-weighted cut-back for the onrushing Ritchie who blazed over wildly from 15 yards.
Pressured by the presence of a defender, it was by no means a sitter, but the kind of opportunity you would have expected the eight-goal winger to have snapped up.
The old adage that goals change games was not tested and that was as good as it got for Cherries during the opening exchanges.
Almost immediately, Yeovil should have punished that miss with an equally good opportunity at the other end. Joe Edwards breezed past Ian Harte with ease and drilled in a low centre, only for former Cherries star James Hayter to miskick with the goal gaping.
Far from put off, the purposeful hosts continued to test a shaken Cherries defence, particularly in wide areas with Harte enduring a tough time against the combination of Edwards and overlapping full-back Luke Ayling.
Kieffer Moore, the Yeovil striker who stepped up four levels from Conference South club Dorchester Town at the start of the season, proved a constant thorn in Cherries’ side and fired a signal of intent down the throat of Lee Camp who needed two attempts to gather his effort.
Steve Cook was forced to dive in with a wonderfully-timed tackle to snuff out the troublesome 21-year-old moments later, but a rare miscalculation from the star centre-half allowed Moore to unleash a moment of magic on 26 minutes.
Jamie McAllister’s floated free kick was met by Cook’s uncertain clearance which Moore struck without hesitation, finding the top corner with an unstoppable rocket which left Camp helpless.
A handful of over exuberant challenges didn’t help Cherries’ cause with Ritchie in particular seemingly unnerved by the hosts’ uncompromising approach.
But despite not firing on all cylinders, the visitors gradually grew into the game with Grabban frustrated with his air shot from Simon Francis’s centre before seeing a daisy-cutter creep marginally wide of the far post following Kermorgant’s lay off before the break.
Yeovil’s greater urgency was present again after the restart as Moore stung Camp’s palms once more, while defender Shane Duffy rippled the side-netting from Ayling’s cross.
Cherries needed a change and the introduction of Adam Smith for the ineffectual Harte reaped immediate rewards.
Within a minute, his driven low centre caused panic with Duffy hacking a clearance on to the arm of Webster in the penalty area but man in the middle Bobby Madley was unmoved by the vociferous appeals of 2,000-plus Cherries supporters behind the goal.
But with Yeovil still reeling, Smith’s threaded pass for Ryan Fraser set up a fortuitous equalising goal.
As Webster went to thump Smith's through ball into the stands, the tenacious winger kept on running to charge down the clearance which looped up and sailed over home goalkeeper Marek Stech before dropping into the net.
Lucky? Maybe, but that moment of unflinching bravery made all the difference. That, along with Cherries’ flashes of superior quality saved them from a damaging defeat.
Webster, Moore and Hayter all went close in a frenetic five-minute spell where Yeovil almost hit straight back, while the lively Tom Lawrence continued to cause problems.
However, with Cook ‘s ability to snuff out danger at every turn, notably at close quarters with Hayter ready to pounce in the latter stages, Cherries generally looked resolute enough to hold out.
There was hope of a smash-and-grab winner on the break but tired runs from the likes of Ritchie lacked their usual invention.
As time ticked away, it became clear that sheer determination and greater ability had contrived to create the result nobody wanted.
But the dream is still alive. Whether this proves to be a point gained will depend on Cherries rediscovering the zest of recent showings.
STAR MAN – STEVE COOK
On a day with few shining lights, Cook had to take the plaudits, despite his hand in Yeovil’s goal.
Other than his indecisive clearance which set up Moore’s marvellous strike, the centre-half was one of a limited number of Cherries players who matched the home side’s drive and determination.
Had it not been for perfectly-timed interceptions in the penalty area, both Moore and Hayter would have been presented with golden opportunities either side of the interval, while his presence proved just enough in open play to keep the Glovers at bay.
Cook’s distribution was off key at times, but he more than made up for it with the never-say-die attitude which has defined his excellent season.
Eunan O’Kane and Ryan Fraser deserve a mention for their efforts, while Lewis Grabban kept battling despite little falling his way.
Cherries: Camp 6.5, Francis 6, Cook 7, Elphick 6, Harte 5.5 (Smith, 57), Ritchie 5.5, Surman 6, O’Kane 6.5, Fraser 6.5 (Rantie, 80), Grabban 6.5 (Pitman, 68), Kermorgant 6.
Unused subs: MacDonald, Pugh, Ward, Allsop (g/k).
Booked: Francis, Cook.
Glovers: Stech, Ayling, Duffy, Webster, McAllister, Edwards, Palazuelos, Ralls, Lawrence, Moore, Hayter (Hoskins, 90).
Unused subs: Twumasi, Lanzoni, Dawson, Grant, Davis, Dunn (g/k).
Referee: Bobby Madley (West Yorkshire).
Attendance: 6,931 (including 2,074 away supporters).
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