Given how Bournemouth’s season ended, there was a bit of a sense of trepidation as to whether they could just switch back to the form which had secured their play-off spot a few weeks earlier, but they certainly did. I think the return of the supporters played a massive part in that. It’s well documented that Vitality Stadium is one of the smaller grounds in the top two divisions, so the benefit of that can really be felt when fans are in there, albeit in limited numbers. The shoe will obviously be on the other foot on Saturday, but it felt like a real occasion again with people there to watch such a big game. I think Bournemouth deserved the win on the night, but it was a really entertaining watch and I’d expect something similar this weekend.
What would it mean for Bournemouth to reach the play-off final?
The goal before the season was promotion, automatic promotion really, so finishing in sixth was not part of the plan. But if they were to overcome Brentford, the team seen as favourites to win the play-offs, that would go a massive way to achieving that goal. I think it would be a big confidence booster also, especially given Cherries have beaten both Swansea and Barnsley already this season. But I sense there will be a couple more twists in this semi-final tie just yet!
Would you expect a similar starting line-up for the second leg?
A lot of that will depend on fitness. If everybody is fit, I’d expect Jonathan Woodgate to keep the same starting XI. However, Steve Cook and Ben Pearson were both forced off injured on Monday. If they miss out, you’d expect Chris Mepham (above) and Jack Wilshere to come in. Apart from that, given how well the team performed on Monday, I wouldn’t expect him to tinker with it too much.
How much of a blow would it be if Steve Cook’s injury keeps him out of Saturday’s second leg?
A huge blow. Cookie has been key this season, well, the past 10 seasons really! He didn’t look in great shape after the game on Monday night, but if there’s any way he can be out on that pitch, he’ll be there. There will be some comfort though by the performance of Mepham off the bench. It has been a tough season for him both on and off the pitch, but football has a funny habit of throwing up stories like him being called into such a big game against his former club. And alongside Cameron Carter-Vickers, the pair did brilliantly to keep Brentford’s attack quiet for the majority of that second half. The Cherries would love to have Cook’s experience in that back-line on Saturday, but if Mepham can produce what he did on Monday again this weekend, they will have a good chance of progressing.
What’s your score prediction?
I think with supporters in, Brentford will fancy their chances of overturning that one-goal deficit. I think they’ll win on the day, maybe 2-1, and take the game to extra time. My hunch a few weeks ago was it would take penalties in the final to separate the two sides, so I’ll revise that and say penalties in the semis now instead!
Saturday's game is exclusively live on Sky Sports with audio commentary on iFollow Brentford.
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