Written by Toby Foster (@TobyFost)
A 95th-minute Chris Mepham goal earned AFC Bournemouth a well-deserved point in a high-quality clash with Watford at Vicarage Road.
The hosts had taken the lead early through Croatian striker Stipe Perica’s debut goal in English football, but Mepham’s deft close-range finish restored parity with seconds to spare – maintaining the Cherries’ unbeaten start to the season in the process.
Bournemouth boss Jason Tindall made four changes to the side which drew at Cardiff in midweek, as Josh King and Lloyd Kelly both made their first starts of the campaign after returning from injury layoffs.
Kelly’s return was almost over in the opening two minutes of the contest when he was let off with just a booking from referee Tim Robinson for his knee-high, studs-up tackle on Ismalia Sarr.
Sarr would wreak his revenge on the Cherries minutes later, when he gratefully received an inspired long-range pass from Craig Cathcart. The Senegalese winger took a touch and then slipped in a low, pinpoint delivery to the feet of the onrushing Perica, who prodded in.
A first-half injury to Jefferson Lerma saw the midfielder replaced by Dominic Solanke as Bournemouth looked to get back on level terms, and he proved to be their best attacking outlet for the remainder of proceedings.
Ben Foster was forced into action twice to deny fiercely-hit first-half Solanke strikes, while another of his shots from a good position in the box was blocked well by Watford’s William Troost-Ekong.
Both sides went through the attacking gears after the interval. Etienne Capoue, on as a half-time substitute, slipped an incisive pass to the jet-heeled Sarr, but Asmir Begovic pulled off a superb one-handed save at close range to keep the Cherries in the game.
Bournemouth upped the ante in their search for an equaliser as the half wore on, with Philip Billing and Josh King going close before Solanke forced Foster into a nimble stop from his powerful effort.
Watford almost put the game out of sight when Domingos Quina hit an audacious goal-bound strike from distance, but again Begovic parried away.
The seven minutes of added time proved fateful as the Cherries surged forward in a final attempt to even the scoreline. Josh King almost found the net with a header but Foster just about managed to palm the ball away.
Yet with 95 minutes on the clock, a final goalmouth scramble saw the ball fall to Lloyd Kelly, whose punt goalwards was clipped in at close range by Mepham to clinch a draw.
Bournemouth remain undefeated under Jason Tindall and sit fourth in the Championship table with 13 points from their first seven games, with Watford just one point – and one place better off.
The Cherries host second-placed Bristol City in midweek.
Teams and Player Ratings
Foster 7/10, Cathcart 8, Troost-Ekong 8, Kabasele 7, Ngakia 7, Garner 6 (sub Capoue, 45’ 7), Chalobah 6, Cleverley 6 (sub Quina, 64’ 7), Sema 6, Sarr 8, Perica 7 (sub Pedro 82’ 7)
Subs not used: Wilmot, Sierralta, Murray, Bachmann
Begovic – Critical saves to thwart Sarr and Quina paved the way for the Cherries to snatch a point… 8
Mepham – Was in the right place at the right time to turn home the equaliser. Assertive in defence too… 8
S Cook – Caught out a few times by the electric Watford frontline but didn’t disgrace himself… 6
Kelly – Reckless early challenge nearly saw him sent off inside two minutes, but thanks to the referee’s kindness he was still there to set up Mepham’s 95th-minute point-saver… 6
Stacey – Quietly effective, or perhaps just plain quiet… 6
Lerma – Unfortunate hamstring injury forced him off after 18 minutes… 6
L Cook – Pulled the midfield strings to good effect. An industrious performance… 7
Billing – Energetic showing with some attacking flair added in for good measure… 7
Rico – One of Bournemouth’s most reliable performers recently and this was a case in point… 7
Danjuma – Looks to be gaining in confidence though his level of creativity still left a bit to be desired… 6
King – First start of the season didn’t yield much, though it was not for the want of trying… 6
Solanke (for Lerma, 18’) – Looks a player reborn in the Championship. Brimming with confidence, ingenuity and drive. Perseverance is paying off handsomely at last… 8
Stanislas (for Danjuma, 73’) – Dropped to bench for this contest and didn’t pull up trees in this run-out… 6
Riquelme (for Rico, 85’) – Atletico Madrid loanee was introduced for a short cameo… 6
Subs not used: Simpson, Gosling, Surridge, Travers
Referee: Tim Robinson
Nerve Star Man: Dominic Solanke