Bluffer's guide to the play-offs: AFC Bournemouth
The League One play-offs make for familiar surroundings to Huddersfield, Peterborough and MK Dons. The wild card this season is the presence of AFC Bournemouth. Cherries fan Chris Lines gives the inside track on what to expect from the side that hung onto sixth place against all the odds.
Feeling confident? How’s your form?
I wouldn’t say confident, but certainly not a bag of nerves. It was looking like we would fall away during the run-in but the team have found a bit of a second wind and just about made it.
Our form is a bit patchy, and we go into the semis as very much the outsiders. But there’s perhaps pressure on Huddersfield to go up, there’s far less pressure on us. That can go either way, but hopefully a calm dressing room won’t do us any harm.
Up to now, would you judge your season so far as a success or did you have an eye on the automatic spots?
We were never going to get automatic, despite all the media attention over the winter that we might. Even if Eddie Howe had stayed, it would have been playoffs. The season’s been a rip-roaring success, despite losing the most talented young manager in the country and our two best strikers (Brett Pitman to Bristol City and Josh McQuoid to Millwall). Whatever happens in the playoffs, the fans will be proud of them.
Did you have the upper hand over your semi-final opponents in the games you’ve played against them already this season?
We managed to get two draws off Huddersfield, which is good going. I wasn’t present at either of them I’m afraid, so I can’t really comment on who had the edge.
Do you think your players have a big-game mentality? Will they step up?
A mixed bag really. There are some big gutsy characters who might rise to the occasion, but one or two who have played within themselves a bit at times when it’s really mattered. If I was being picky, I’d say the two wingers Pugh and Feeney need to show their best form if we’re to have a chance against Huddersfield.
Who will be your key man?
An 18-year-old, believe it or not. Young striker Danny Ings has made a big impact in recent months and if anyone could get the goals to send us to Old Trafford, it’s probably him.
Who is the semi-final opposition’s dangerman?
Jordan Rhodes has scored plenty of goals for them, but the one that really worries me is Jamie McCombe at centre back. He’s a massive great lummox and our centre backs are 6ft 1in and 5ft 10in. If Steve Fletcher’s not on the field, there’s nobody capable of handling McCombe at set pieces.
If you get through, who would you prefer in the final?
I’d prefer to play MK Dons, because Peterborough are capable of humiliating us. However, I’d rather lose to Posh than MkDonalds because, with AFC Wimbledon being my second team, I wouldn’t be able to stomach losing to that lot. Plus it would be a shame to see Old Trafford half empty…
Who’s going to score your winning goal in the final…?
The obvious answer would be Steve Fletcher, and that would be glorious, but I’ll go for a leftfield suggestion. Right-back Adam Smith has been an excellent loanee from Tottenham this season. We’d love him again next year, but we might have to get promoted for that to happen. So come on Smithy, another fizzing low drive under the keeper to take us up, and then the right-back berth’s yours for as long as you want it.
Of course, if you want a fairytale answer, how about Steve Lovell? He’s Eddie Howe’s half brother, y’know? So that would be a nice connection for the media to peg our promotion on.