THIS defeat will concern Eddie Howe perhaps more than any other during his tenure.
Not the three goals in 11 first-half minutes that ultimately settled the game in favour of Blackburn Rovers, but his players’ uncharacteristic, some might say abject response to going a goal behind to Jordan Rhodes’s 13th-minute opener.
Prior to that, Cherries had looked assured, composed and played the ball with a sense of purpose and confidence. They were rarely chasing possession during the opening 10 minutes.
As Howe said himself, at that stage it looked like it was going to be a good afternoon. There was certainly no head-hanging left over from Tuesday’s defeat at home to Nottingham Forest.
But as soon as Rhodes, probably playing his last game for Rovers before moving to Hull City for a rumoured £10million transfer fee, had taken full advantage of Steve Cook’s dawdling to slot underneath Lee Camp, it was just like watching Brazil - against Germany in the World Cup. And Rhodes was Thomas Muller.
The reaction of Howe’s players was as surprising as it was disappointing. They were punished down the Rovers left-hand side time after time. Matt Ritchie made way at half-time. Had Simon Francis not missed out due to a hamstring injury, Adam Smith may well have followed Ritchie, such was the pain inflicted by Markus Olsson and Ben Marshall.
Rovers piled forward in numbers, winning free-kicks and forcing Cherries into mistakes, exposing an apparent vulnerability in Howe’s defence from the set-piece.
On 21 minutes, Grant Hanley rose above Cook to loop home a header and make it 2-0. Howe’s men were all at sea.
Three minutes later it was 3-0. There was little Camp could do, although the same could not be said for the first two goals.
After Cherries had failed to clear effectively another set-piece, Craig Conway’s eyes widened as he collected the loose ball 25 yards out. His goalbound shot was diverted by Rudy Gestede past a wrong-footed Camp.
It was fortuitous, yes, but no more than Rovers had deserved for sensing blood after the first goal. That kind of ethos had been missing at Ewood Park for some time but, keep Rhodes, and they will be in the mix for promotion, surely?
The Scotsman was unlucky not to double his tally for the afternoon on the half-hour when he turned beautifully inside the box and blasted a crisp left-foot shot against the post. Once again, it was Olsson who had been the provider from the left.
Camp saved, albeit unconvincingly, from Marshall before half-time but the pressure showed no sign of abating right up to the whistle.
Howe certainly earned his corn at the interval. Ritchie made way in favour of Ryan Fraser, who did cause problems for Rovers during a much better second half.
Yann Kermorgant, anonymous for 50 minutes, tested Paul Robinson with a good effort which was saved at full stretch by the former England goalkeeper. Fraser blazed into the side netting, before Robinson turned Callum Wilson’s low drive around the post on 54 minutes.
Rovers appeared reasonably content to sit on what they had earned during that first-half blitz, seemingly confident that for all Cherries style and joie de vivre during that opening 10 minutes, Howe’s men had shown little that was going to truly hurt them.
In truth, though, the home side always seemed like they had another goal in them should they have needed it. Tommy Elphick was forced to block substitute Josh King’s shot on 66 minutes. Alex Baptiste’s fearsome header flew over the bar.
King was impressive. Having tortured Cherries at Dean Court last season, the 22-year-old was equally dangerous charging down the left or cutting inside. He should have capped his performance with a goal on 86 minutes but fired over the bar.
Prior to that chance, Howe’s men had been given a lifeline from referee Geoff Eltringham.
On 81 minutes, Smith weaved his way into the box before crashing to the turf under a challenge from Baptiste.
Press box replays showed little or no contact. Rovers boss Gary Bowyer later accused Smith of diving. Substitute Brett Pitman, on for Junior Stanislas, cared not a jot as he blasted the spot-kick home with real intent.
That moment of fortune seemed to spark a further gear and a degree of belief from Howe’s side that had been lacking during their first-half capitulation.
Cook atoned for his earlier errors when he headed Charlie Daniels’s corner past Robinson during the first seconds of stoppage time, while Elphick saw his shot from close range blocked during a dramatic scramble moments before full-time.
Next up in the league? Norwich City and one Lewis Grabban. A proper response needed.
Cherries: (4-4-2) Camp; Smith, Elphick, Cook, Daniels; Ritchie (Fraser, h-t), Arter, O'Kane, Stanislas (Pitman, 74); Kermorgant (Rantie, 66), Wilson.
Unused subs: Cargill, Harte, Gosling, Flahavan (g/k).
Rovers: (4-4-2) Robinson; Lowe, Baptiste, Hanley, Olsson; Conway, Evans, Cairney, Marshall (King, 60); Rhodes (Dunn, 77), Gestede.
Unused subs: Henley, Varney, Williamson, Taylor, Eastwood (g/k).
Booked: Evans, Robinson.
Referee: Geoff Eltringham (Tyne & Wear).
Attendance: 13,900 (319 away fans).