A draw wasn’t quite what AFC Bournemouth or Newcastle United wanted but for visiting manager Eddie Howe it might have been the most diplomatic result. As the players trooped off, the ground rose as one to acclaim the man who had taken Bournemouth to the Premier League and revitalised a moribund Newcastle, who are now unbeaten in the league since August.
Making his first return to Bournemouth in any capacity, Howe was visibly moved although his struggling former employers may feel the more frustrated, especially after Keiron Trippier brilliantly cleared Dominic Solanke’s close-range flick off the line in added time.
“It was a very special moment,” noted Howe. “I’d never had a chance to say goodbye to the people who’d done so much for me and my family. The memories came flooding back: I thought of my mum driving me to training when I was 12. That reception meant the world to me. I’m so grateful but I feel I’m a Newcastle man too. I’m working hard to give everyone connected with the club memories and emotions.”
For all that, this wasn’t an especially memory-generating encounter. Newcastle failed to take full advantage of Tottenham’s defeat at Leicester. While they lacked fluency and were hanging on at the death, they dug in and took something north, showing resilience not always in evidence under previous regimes. “We weren’t at our best,” admitted Howe. “Our final product was missing. We’re creating chances, but not taking them. That will change.”
The honeymoon period of Bournemouth head coach Gary O’Neil – the third man to take the helm since Howe – already seems sepia-tinted. His team have still not won since before the break for Qatar, but this was a performance to build on. “The longer the game went on, the more likely we looked to win it. ,” he suggested. “We deserved all three points.”
Without the suspended Bruno Guimaraes and with Allan Saint-Maximin misfiring, Newcastle lacked maverick creativity and they struggled to hold back the red and black tide. Indeed, Bournemouth might have gone ahead after 13 minutes when the effervescent Jaidon Anthony whipped in a cross from the left. Solanke’s header seemed set to creep in, but Nick Pope scrambled across goal and pawed the ball for a corner.