A look at two Southampton goalkeepers who donned the gloves for the Cherries during an eventful season in the club's history.
In the absence of our MATCHDAY programme, Gareth Davies continues his series of features on the players who have pulled on the shirts of the Cherries and our upcoming opponents, this time our near neighbours Southampton.
The 2002/03 campaign was one which started under a cloud – quite literally – at Boston United, but finished in glorious fashion under the roof of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium after a stunning play-off final win over Lincoln City.
What happened in between that 2-2 draw against the newly promoted Pilgrims - complete with a pre-match firework display - and the Lincoln demolition in Wales was eventful to say the least.
After suffering relegation the previous term, Bournemouth started the season in the fourth tier for the first time in 20 years. Off the field, as seemed to be the norm for the club back then, financial problems threatened Bournemouth’s very existence.
Pre-season friendlies against Tottenham and Manchester United boosted ailing club coffers, with a sale and leaseback scheme for Dean Court proposed. Although this would eventually happen in 2007, the club avoided this via a scheme called Cherry Share with fans donating funds to keep the financial wolves away from the door.
On the pitch, the side, managed by Sean O’Driscoll, endured a miserable start to Division Three life and without a league win at the end of August, then chairman Peter Phillips gave the Cherries chief an ultimatum to turn fortunes around.
It worked, as consecutive wins over Macclesfield and Exeter City inspired by the first goals in red and black for Alan Connell, kick-started the Cherries’ quest for an instant return to the third tier.
Although Connell would suffer a season-ending injury during a 0-0 draw away at Leyton Orient in October, this news was combined with Steve Fletcher returning to the side after nearly a year on the side lines.
With matters at the business end of the pitch for Bournemouth improving as Fletcher battled for striking berth alongside James Hayter and Warren Feeney, at the opposite end of the pitch, the Cherries were gripped by a goalkeeping crisis.
Alan Blayney & Neil Moss
In 2001/02, Gareth Stewart donned the gloves for the bulk of the season, backed up by French ‘keeper Michael Menetrier. However, the latter left the club during the off-season and with just Stewart on the Cherries’ books, Chris Tardif came in on loan from Portsmouth and made his debut against Boston with Stewart injured at the time.
After just three starts, which included a 2-0 defeat at Swansea City, Tardif picked up a knock and Jamie Ashdown was brought in from Reading on loan. After just two games with Ashdown between the sticks, Tardif returned but disaster struck in an early September League Cup game at home to Brentford.
Tardif was injured again during a 3-3 draw, which Bournemouth lost on penalties - a game that saw midfielder Marcus Browning wear the gloves for the shoot-out.
It was then a case of cometh the hour, cometh the man as O’Driscoll’s next move was to bring in Neil Moss on loan from Southampton to solve his ever-increasing goalkeeping conundrum.
Moss was born in New Milton and spent his formative footballing years supporting the Cherries, joining the youth system in 1992 before turning professional just six months later. Despite his tender years, Moss excelled in a Cherries side which struggled under manager Tony Pulis.
However, like many players before and subsequently after, who caught the eye for Bournemouth, Moss was sold to Southampton for a cut-price fee of £250,000 in December 1995. The cash generated almost certainly kept Bournemouth in business at the time, but just a year later, the club were in receivership and battling to stay alive.
After struggling to make an impact for Saints, who were still playing at their small but much cherished home the Dell, Moss was sent out on loan to Gillingham – reuniting with his former boss Pulis at Priestfield.
After ten appearances with the Kent side, Moss went back to Southampton where he would remain until 2002 when Bournemouth came calling again. His second debut for the Cherries didn’t go according to plan with a 2-1 loss at home to Bury.
But if O’Driscoll had thought his problem between the sticks had been solved then he was mistaken, as there would be further twists and turns as the season progressed. Firstly, Moss’ loan expired and initially it looked like he would not return.
With Stewart now fit, he returned for an FA Cup replay against Southend, but after just 19 minutes, he suffered a serious injury and was replaced by Tardif. Worse followed in the next home league game against Hull City when Tardif was injured and it was once again down to Browning to step in as an emergency goalkeeper.
To his credit, the Welsh midfielder managed to keep a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw, but before festive fixtures against Oxford and Rochdale, O’Driscoll went back to Southampton for a goalkeeper and signed future Northern Ireland international Alan Blayney.
Unfortunately, Blayney’s Bournemouth career was short and not overly sweet as the side were thrashed 3-0 at the Kassam Stadium on Boxing Day, before being held to a 3-3 draw by Rochdale two days later.
Tardif returned to full fitness and starred in an FA Cup penalty shoot-out victory at Crewe Alexandra and enjoyed an extended run in the side.
Then, in early February, Moss returned to Dean Court again on a permanent basis and he was an ever present for the remainder of the campaign as Bournemouth claimed play-off glory in Wales.
Moss would spend the next five years at Dean Court as a player before hanging up his gloves in 2008 due to a string of persistent injuries. He then joined the coaching staff a year later and remains in the post to this day.
Blayney, meanwhile, would enjoy loans at several other clubs including Brighton, before leaving Southampton in 2006 and joining Doncaster Rovers. His spell in South Yorkshire lasted less than a year and after making one appearance for Oldham Athletic, he returned to Northern Ireland in 2007.