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Meldrum's verdict: Wigan Athletic 1 Cherries 1
IT wasn’t quite 1984 all over again, but...
The FA Cup will always stir evocative memories of yesteryear dreams that turned into reality and there was much of the dogmatism and ‘we shall not be moved’ shown by Harry Redknapp’s heroes of January 8 on display from Eddie Howe’s side here.
“We don’t get many days like this in Bournemouth,” Redknapp chuckled after sweeping aside cup holders Manchester United at Dean Court 29 years ago.
There might be another when this tie is replayed.
Wigan are not Manchester United, of course, while this Cherries side, now unbeaten in 17 games, is not entrenched at the foot of the league as Redknapp’s charges were. Far from it.
Roberto Martinez can only dream of a run such as the one Cherries continue to extend. The annual post-Christmas battle for Premier League survival is just beginning at the DW Stadium. Perhaps those thoughts were where the minds of Martinez’s starting line-up were drifting as Cherries started with boisterous intent.
How could they not have been buoyed by the roar that greeted them as they emerged for the pre-match warm-up.
More than 2,700 travelling fans, who had left Dorset just as the light of morning began to show and returned home in darkness, were magnificent.
It was the finest away turn-out since that night of drama, bewilderment and, ultimately, despair at Huddersfield’s Galpharm Stadium in 2011.
But, make no mistake. This was not simply one of those fabled and often patronising FA Cup ‘days out’. These supporters, rightly, felt Howe’s men could come away with something.
Their optimism in the face of Wigan, a Premier League side and an established one at that, epitomised the waves of good feeling and certitude sweeping through their club.
Martinez made nine changes to the side that had been thumped by Manchester United (them again), but his line-up was not without quality. Emmerson Boyce, Jordi Gomez and Maynor Figueroa all started. Howe made four changes himself as well as bravely adjusting his 4-4-2 approach to accommodate the experience of Richard Hughes in a key role in front of the back four.
But it was down the left flank that Howe’s men had most of their early joy.
Ronnie Stam was left in a daze as Charlie Daniels and Marc Pugh ransacked their way past the main stand time and time again. Martinez would surely do something about it? He didn’t.
Daniels got a cross in as early as the fourth minute after linking up with Pugh, but Wigan’s 40-year-old goalkeeper Mike Pollitt snaffled up his delivery. Stam trundled back into position in front of his bamboozled manager in the technical area.
The visiting army sensed their pre-match cheer was not without justification and goaded the pockets of natives in the Boston Stand. “You’re supposed to be at home” they bellowed.
A quick free kick from Daniels on 14 minutes found Matt Tubbs, the lone striker in Howe’s re-organised 4-1-4-1 set-up, but he was dispossessed by Danny Redmond as he shaped to shoot.
At the other end, Mauro Boselli’s shot on the turn failed to force Shwan Jalal into his first save of the afternoon. Then referee Bobby Madley took centre stage. The South Yorkshire official controversially booked Pugh for simulation after he went to ground inside the penalty area after half-an-hour.
Boyce had appeared to barge Pugh out of the way, while the winger later claimed he had marks on his leg after being tripped in the same incident courtesy of Roman Golobart.
If anything, the decision sparked even greater levels of adherence from the North Stand. The players were boosted once again. Jalal saved well from Boselli after Harry Arter had been robbed in midfield, but the goal Cherries had been threatening arrived four minutes before half-time. And in some style.
Eunan O’Kane created space for a shot having picked up the ball some 25 yards out and unleashed a left-foot drive that crashed into the net beyond Pollitt.
The sea of bodies in red and black burst into the animated rapture only the FA Cup can spark.
Talk at half-time, though, might have focused on just when the Wigan storm would arrive.
But it was Howe’s side who again emerged from the tunnel with the greater all-round vigour and attacking intent.
Substitute Angelo Henriquez, on loan from Manchester United and a half-time introduction by Martinez, went close with a header. Josh McQuoid’s well-executed snapshot in front of the empty South Stand dipped over the bar.
But around the hour mark, Wigan really began to gain a firm stranglehold on the game. The expected storm was fomenting.
After Golobart’s header flew over on 64 minutes, a wonderful, swerving left-foot drive from Figeuroa crashed back off Jalal’s crossbar from all of 30 yards. The goalkeeper stood motionless. It was a huge let-off.
Still Wigan attacked, but Cherries’ defensive resolve appeared unbreakable.
The protracted restlessness in the main stand was finally nullified, though, when Gomez slotted past Jalal from close range after the Cherries goalkeeper had parried his 70th-minute penalty.
Although debate over the Pugh penalty shout was still to rage after the final whistle, Madley was wholly justified in pointing to the spot on this occasion. Although the crime scene was crowded, TV replays showed Simon Francis had tugged on the shirt of Figueroa during another Wigan onslaught inside the Cherries penalty area.
After Gomez, Wigan’s best player, had restored parity, though, Cherries again set about trying to finish the tie inside 90 minutes.
Pollitt kept out substitute Wes Fogden’s curler on 73 minutes, before Arter missed arguably the game’s best chance from open play when he blazed over from just shy of the six-yard box.
So, the sides will go again. Martinez, having now had a good look at Cherries from close quarters, may opt to be less adventurous with his team line-up and shape in the replay at Dean Court.
The introductions from the bench of James McArthur and Henriquez were telling. As was the Wigan supporter who turned to the visiting press after the final whistle and delivered his verdict.
“Bournemouth deserved to win,” he said. He and the classy main stand standing ovation that saw Howe’s men off the field were right.
Latics (3-4-3): Pollitt; Figueroa, Boyce, Golobart; Stam, Jones (Dicko, 79), Fyvie (McArthur, 79), Redmond (Henriquez, h-t); Gomez, Boselli, McManaman.
Unused subs: Espinoza, Kiernan, Campabadal, Al Habsi (g/k).
Cherries: (4-1-4-1) Jalal 8; Francis 7.5, Elphick 8.5, Cook 8.5, Daniels 8.5*; Hughes 8 (Partington, 90); McQuoid 7.5 (Pitman, 88), Arter 8, O’Kane 8, Pugh 8; Tubbs 7.5 (Fogden, 66).
Unused subs: Demouge, McDermott, Fletcher, James (g/k).
Booked: Pugh, McQuoid.
Referee: Robert Madley (West Yorkshire).
Attendance: 8,199 (away fans 2,713)
Cherries' star man - Charlie Daniels
Daniels, alongside Marc Pugh, left Dutchman Ronnie Stam wondering what day it was.
In arguably his most effective game for the club, Daniels was Cherries’ go-to man on the counter attack during a dominant first half for the visitors.
Daniels was also solid in defence, but the nature of Wigan’s 3-4-3 formation allowed him much needed space to exploit in conjunction with Pugh.
Steve Cook and Tommy Elphick were once again rock solid at the heart of Cherries’ defence, but Daniels shades the award due to his desire to get forward during a performance overflowing with attacking invention.