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The First Season We Met - Bournemouth


Despite Bournemouth and Chelsea being formed in 1899 and 1905 respectively it wasn't until 1988 that the two clubs crossed paths in competitive football.


Originally known as Boscombe and plying their trade in regional football, under the new name of Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic they were elected to the 3rd Division South in 1923. It is there that they spent the vast majority of their time apart from a stint in Division 4. After gaining promotion they won the Division 3 title at the end of the 1986-87 season and it was during a three season spell in Division 2 that Chelsea encountered them for the first time.


After gaining promotion to Division 1 in 1984, Chelsea had spent four years at the top table of English Football but after two memorable campaigns the side began to run out of steam. A rapid decline saw the club relegated in 1988 via a newly introduced play-off system. Chelsea finished fourth from bottom, technically out of the automatic relegation places, but it meant they had to play a mini knockout tournament against two of the four clubs who had finished outside the automatic places in Division 2. Chelsea's opposition in the semi-final was Blackburn Rovers and after winning 2-0 at Ewood Park in the 1st Leg on 15th May 1988 Chelsea then won 4-1 at Stamford Bridge three days later to wrap up a 6-1 aggregate victory which set up a play-off final against Middlesbrough, who had seen off Bradford City via a narrow 3-2 aggregate score in their semi-final.


On 25th May, Chelsea lost 2-0 at Ayresome Park in the 1st Leg of the final but in the return Leg at Stamford Bridge an early goal from Gordon Durie gave the home side hope. However, with 40,550 spectators inside the ground Chelsea struggled to break down a stubborn Middlesbrough defence and as time passed, frustration grew and the atmosphere became toxic. Chelsea won the game 1-0 but lost 2-1 on aggregate which meant relegation, but even worse was the serious crowd disorder that broke out in the stadium. A subsequent inquiry by the Football Association resulted in severe punishment for Chelsea, causing the closure of the terraces for several games at the start of the 1988-89 season.


When the new campaign in Division 2 did get underway it was clear that a dark cloud had descended on Stamford Bridge and the lack of atmosphere affected performances. The opening home game against Blackburn Rovers resulted in a depressing 2-1 defeat before a point was gained from a 1-1 draw at Crystal Palace.


Next up was Chelsea's inaugural visit to Bournemouth on the Dorset Coast. The home side had managed to stay in Division 2 at the first attempt by just a three point margin and were among the bookmakers favourites to struggle again. A gate of 8,763 filed in to Dean Court on 3rd September 1988 and a poor performance from Chelsea in what was an unremarkable fixture resulted in defeat, the game settled by a Richard Cooke goal six minutes after half-time.


Chelsea's woes continued until the side won 2-0 at Leeds United (Dirty) on 24th September 1988 and from that point on they began the inexorable climb to the summit of the table that they reached after winning 4-1 at Birmingham City on 16th December 1988. Their position at the top was rarely threatened after the turn of the year and by the time the two sides met for the return fixture on 25th March 1989, Chelsea enjoyed a five point advantage over their nearest rivals with eleven games remaining.


Gordon Durie

Bournemouth had surprised the critics by having a much better campaign themselves and on the day of the game were only five points away from automatic promotion. An attendance of 22,467 was at Stamford Bridge and to their credit, a very disciplined Bournemouth side battled hard to frustrate Chelsea. The game was in it's final quarter when the home side finally gained the lead through Gordon Durie.

Graham Roberts

The three points were finally secured when Graham Roberts fired home from the penalty spot in the 79th minute to maintain a clear lead at the top of the table and then eventual promotion in what turned out to be a memorable campaign. Despite having a very competitive side the following season saw Bournemouth relegated to Division 3 and although difficulties lay ahead for them they would eventually achieve great success.















By Paul Waterhouse, Bygone Chelsea 1905-99

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