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Perrett's Verdict: Doncaster Rovers 0 AFC Bournemouth 1
IF Tokelo Rantie is treated to a DVD of this compellingly one-sided and chance-laden contest, he will no doubt be licking his lips.
As a striker coming into the English game for the first time, Cherries’ record signing could ask for nothing more than good service.
This was as convincing a 1-0 victory as Cherries supporters are likely to see this season with Eddie Howe’s men often queuing up to score.
Having deservedly forged ahead thanks to Brett Pitman’s disputed 30th-minute header, the only surprise was that the visitors failed to add to their lead.
Doncaster, who had started the season promisingly, were bereft of attacking threat and devoid of invention, while rampant Cher-ries were the complete opposite.
Ahead of kick-off, a section of the Keepmoat Stadium faithful had taunted the travelling supporters with a chorus of ‘League One champions, you’re having a laugh’.
It was a sarcastic reference to some Cherries followers prematurely celebrating winning the title on a dramatic final day of last season.
Come the final whistle, however, the joke was squarely on them.
Brian Flynn, who led Rovers to the silverware before being elevated to direc-tor of football, had embarked on scouting missions to Cherries’ two previous away games in the Championship.
And as he took his seat at the Keepmoat, the former Wales boss must have been fairly confident Rovers could inflict more misery on Cherries following respective 6-1 and 5-1 defeats at Watford and Huddersfield.
Nothing could have been further from the truth as Howe’s men were allowed time and space to dictate proceedings as the hosts spent long periods on the back foot.
Rovers were left to chase shadows during the opening skirmishes as Cherries’ high-intensity display over the first 35 minutes ensured their opponents would not be afforded an early goal. Ryan Allsop, who had been forced to pick the ball out of the net inside the first 20 minutes at both Vicarage Road and the John Smith’s Stadium, could have been excused for putting up a shooting stick.
The goalkeeper remained a relative spectator as Cherries dominated, his opposite number Ross Turnbull beaten all ends up by a Pitman header which came back off the crossbar in the 20th minute.
It was a sign of things to come with Pitman claiming the final touch after Charlie Daniels’s almost-impossible-to-defend free-kick had led to Cherries converting their supremacy into a goal.
Daniels whipped his delivery into the far post where a posse of players, including Pitman, Elliott Ward and Rovers defender James Husband, all competed to get on the end of it.
While television replays were inconclusive and Pitman’s celebration hardly convincing, the goal was eventually credited to the striker even if Cherries’ analysts tried to give it to Husband.
“I couldn’t see and didn’t have a clue who scored it,” said Howe. “Brett being Brett claimed it and Wardy also tried but I don’t think he was anywhere near it. Being a striker, I would probably like to see it go to Brett.”
Rovers boss Paul Dickov, meanwhile, added to the plot when he said: “We saw it again and he was two yards offside. It was irrelevant because we still should have defended it better. If they had done as they were told, we wouldn’t be arguing about an offside goal.”
Dickov, who spent much of the first half remonstrating with fourth official Alf Greenwood, was incandescent with rage after tempers had flared following a heavy challenge by David Cotterill on Harry Arter seven minutes before the break.
The Scotsman, angry with the reaction to the tackle from members of the visitors’ bench, confronted Howe and appeared to motion with his head towards the Cherries man.
Dickov said: “I don’t like other teams’ benches jumping out and trying to get my players sent off so I told him, politely.
“They were shouting it had been two-footed, it was one-footed and he didn’t touch him. The player went down as if he had his leg broken and, two minutes later, he was jogging up the touchline laughing.”
Asked for his version of events, Howe said: “I thought it was quite a dangerous tackle and Paul disagreed. We said our bit on the touchline and there was certainly nothing in it.
“Paul is a manager I have always respected and got on well with so there were certainly no problems.”
And asked if Dickov had tried to head-butt him, Howe replied: “If he’d tried to head-butt me, I would be on the floor now!”
Another poor challenge by Pitman on Husband resulted in the Cherries striker earning a caution before Allsop made a stunning reaction save from James Coppinger in first-half stoppage time.
Lewis Grabban went closest to administering a knockout second goal when his glancing header was acrobatically saved by Turnbull midway through the second period.
MATCH FACTS AND ECHO MERIT MARKS
Cherries: Allsop 8, Francis 8, Cook 8.5, Ward 8, Daniels 8.5, Fraser 8 (Coulibaly, 71), MacDonald 8, Arter 9*, Pugh 8 (Elphick, 90), Pitman 8.5, Grabban 8 (Thomas, 89).
Unused subs: Harte, Surman, McDermott, Flahavan (g/k).
Booked: Allsop, Pitman.
Rovers: Turnbull, Wabara (Forrester, 77), Jones, Khumalo, Husband, Cotterill (Paynter, 63), Wellens, Keegan, Cop-pinger, Brown, Robinson (Duffy, 68).
Unused subs: Quinn, Furman, McCullough, Maxted (g/k).
Booked: Husband, Cotterill, Robinson.
Referee: Simon Hooper (Wiltshire).
Attendance: 6,769 (including 290 away supporters).
STAR MAN – HARRY ARTER
The all-action midfielder turned in an outstanding display in the Cherries engine room and played a leading role as Eddie Howe’s men bossed proceedings for long periods.
He worked tirelessly getting up and down the pitch, regularly winning possession in his own half and showing great creativity to prompt a num-ber of threatening attacks.
Steve Cook ran him close for the star man plaudits, while Brett Pitman was also on the short-list.
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