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Cherries: Howe's comeback kings earn point in county show
Cherries produced another storming comeback tonight as a late equaliser from Matt Tubbs sealed a dramatic 3-3 draw at Meadow Lane.
Cherries had paid the price for defensive errors during an opening half which saw Jeff Hughes and Yoann Arquin take full advantage to put the hosts firmly in the driving seat.
But, despite the scoreline, the Dorset outfit had performed reasonably well and just as they had done against Tranmere on Saturday, they simply refused to be beaten and saved their best for the second period.
Josh McQuoid gave Cherries hope within six minutes of the restart before Harry Arter continued his form by coolly converting a penalty following mesmerising wing play by Marc Pugh.
Jamal Campbell-Ryce restored the County lead from the spot as the game took yet another twist following Shaun MacDonald’s lunging challenge on Neal Bishop.
However, Cherries were far from done and their battling qualities were rewarded when Tubbs fired home from the narrowest of angles to seal a hard-earned point.
Steve Cook and Donal McDermott were both drafted in by Cherries as boss Howe was forced into changes with suspended Charlie Daniels and ankle-injury victim Lewis Grabban ruled out.
Starved of first-team opportunities under the previous management, talented playmaker McDermott started in the hole behind striker Lee Barnard as Howe opted for a 4-2-3-1 formation against the high-flying Magpies.
McDermott proved a lively addition as both teams made an enterprising opening to the Meadow Lane clash.
Arquin tested the alertness of David James with an ambitious 30-yard volley before Dean Leacock headed wide after meeting an inswinging free-kick from Jordan Stewart.
But Cherries were seeing plenty of the ball and came close to breaking the deadlock on no fewer than three occasions before County capitalised on the visitors’ errors to seize control following a frantic pattern of play.
Bartosz Bialkowski produced an excellent save to tip away McQuoid’s venomous 25-yard drive before Simon Francis hit the outside of the post following a familiar Cherries corner routine straight from the training ground.
Barnard was the next Cherries player to be denied as Bialkowski proved equal to the Southampton loanee’s effort after he had latched on to a loose pass.
Cherries were punished for not making their dominance count, though, when the Magpies went up the other end to score against the run of play.
Striker Arquin broke clear only to be denied as James dived at his feet. However, the ball squirmed away from the ex-England goalkeeper and when Francis’s clearance ricocheted kindly for Jeff Hughes, he made no mistake by firing into an unguarded net from close range.
Things got even worse for Cherries when the hosts doubled their advantage following an uncharacteristic slip-up from right-back Francis. The Nottingham-born former County youth defender was not enjoying a happy return as his under-hit backpass was intercepted by Arquin, who composed himself before guiding a low shot under the advancing James.
Despite performing quite brightly in general play, Cherries found themselves with a huge task in their attempts to continue the form already demonstrated since Howe’s return.
Trailing at the interval against Tranmere on Saturday, Cherries produced a stirring second-half display and required something similar to overturn the deficit.
Howe’s men immediately declared their intent when Barnard flicked on for Pugh, whose left-footed shot again brought out the best in Bialkowski.
But Cherries’ attacking endeavours were eventually rewarded when McQuoid finished confidently following a magical assist from McDermott.
Cherries enjoyed a huge let-off when County captain Neal Bishop saw his thumping shot deflected on to the woodwork.
And Cherries made full use of that good fortune to equalise – with Bishop again heavily involved. The Magpies skipper was judged to have tripped Pugh after the Lancastrian had produced some wing wizardry to dazzle the home defence and weave his way into the penalty area. Off a massive run-up, Arter rounded off Pugh’s fine work by dispatching the spot kick to complete a rapid turnaround.
James saved smartly from Andre Boucaud as the action continued to unfold at a furious pace.
Howe saw his opportunity and threw on a second striker in the shape of Tubbs for McDermott.
But in yet another twist, it was the Magpies who regained the initiative when they struck with a penalty of their own. The lively Campbell-Ryce was the man on target as he fired low under James after MacDonald had dived in on Bishop.
With time fast running out, Cherries were still in with a shout and they again restored parity. Howe’s substitutions proved a masterstroke as Cherries had the final say in a barnstorming finale.
Veteran Fletcher proved as effective as ever to cause problems for the County defence before Tubbs completed a remarkable comeback by squeezing home the ball from what had seemed an impossible angle.
County: (4-3-3) Bialkowski; Liddle, Leacock, Eastham, Stewart; J Hughes, Boucaud, Bishop; Campbell-Ryce, Arquin, Zoko (L Hughes, 69). Unused subs: Sheehan, Showunmi, Mahon, Bencherif, Nangle, Pilkington (g/k).
Booked: Campbell-Ryce, Boucaud, Stewart Cherries: (4-2-3-1) James 6; Francis 5.5, Addison 7, Elphick 6, Cook 6; Arter 7.5, MacDonald 6.5; McQuoid 7.5*, McDermott 7 (Tubbs, 67), Pugh 7.5; Barnard 7 (Fletcher, 81). Unused subs: Zubar, Partington, Fogden, O’Kane, Jalal (g/k).
Booked: Cook, Arter Referee: Robert Lewis (Shropshire) Attendance: 4,584 (including 208 away supporters)