High on, if not top of, the agenda in training on Monday for Bournemouth will almost certainly be penalties. More anguish from 12 yards prevented Bournemouth from claiming their first win at Southampton after Harry Arter ballooned the decisive spot-kick – a lifeline in an entertaining yet uninspiring contest – high into the stratosphere. It was Bournemouth’s 10th penalty of the season – no team have won more in the top flight – but after scoring their first seven they have now missed their last three.
These teams started the day level on points and finished it in the same manner, after an ultimately profligate display from both sides. Arter’s miss was almost identical to that of Harry Kane’s in December, with his standing foot giving way in more or less exactly the same spot at St Mary’s.
“There is no blame [attached] to any individual who misses, I am just glad that we are making the chances,” Eddie Howe said, keen to outline the positives after Bournemouth extended their unbeaten run to four matches.
This was a south-coast derby, geographically at least, and a match-up that is slowly blossoming on the Premier League stage. After eight weeks away from St Mary’s, Southampton settled quickly, but as Claude Puel was keen to point out, the international break eventually took its toll, with 15 players away with their respective countries.
“It is not an excuse, but it is difficult,” Puel said, although Maya Yoshida still started in defence, despite travelling more than 14,000 miles over the international break with Japan. Jay Rodriguez led the line in the absence of Manolo Gabbiadini, who remains a doubt for Wednesday’s game against Crystal Palace because of a groin injury.
Dusan Tadic also kept his place, despite his manager accusing the midfielder of showing him a lack of respect last week, after publicly voicing his frustration about being continually substituted. They had words and they seemed to have the desired effect, with the Serb a menace throughout here.
Rodriguez, who scored twice in this fixture in December, was again a nuisance and forced Artur Boruc, back at St Mary’s for the first time since May 2014, into a fine save from a powerful volley.
Bournemouth, although on the back foot, almost took the lead when Andrew Surman got the faintest of touches on the ball after it dropped in the box from Ryan Fraser’s corner. Fraser Forster made a mess of it and Steven Davis cleared off the line.
March proved magnificent for Bournemouth – with Howe picking up the manager of the month award – and he had no intentions of allowing his team to begin April with a whimper. Southampton controlled the contest, with Bournemouth made to soak up large spells of pressure.
In doing so they waited patiently for an opening to present itself, although when it did, after 61 minutes, Benik Afobe failed to pounce, shooting harmlessly wide.
Southampton then poured forward, with the substitute Shane Long this time guilty of firing wide after further invention by Tadic.
Howe recognised one creative spark would change the game and looked to Jack Wilshere from the bench. He made a difference, but it was Fraser who took the immediate initiative. The winger jinked into the box, with Southampton reluctant to challenge his dainty footwork. But when Oriol Romeu eventually cleared, the ball fell at the feet of Adam Smith, who let fly from distance. His effort struck the post before a scramble ensued. Southampton would survive, although Bournemouth’s best opportunity was still to come.
Wilshere threaded the ball through for Fraser, amid little danger, but Ryan Bertrand was adjudged by the referee, Jonathan Moss, to have made contact with the winger.
With Joshua King departed and Afobe having also missed from the spot against West Ham United, the onus was on Arter to convert. But he lost his footing and blazed high into the Northam Stand.
“I do not know where we go next,” Howe said, when asked about who might take a penalty should one arise at Liverpool on Wednesday. “We will have to have a think about it and see.”