When news happens text pix and video to 80360. Start your message with BE then leave a space.
Wadley's verdict: AFC Bournemouth 1 Blackpool 2
PROUDLY emblazoned on the top of the official Dean Court team sheet on Saturday read the phrase ‘Anything Is Possible’.
That bold statement said much for the club’s recent past.
And with the now 100 per cent shareholder Maxim Demin among a bumper crowd, it also summed up the sense of optimism greeting the dawn of this new era. A new owner, a new outlook and, above all else, new expectations.
Those lofty expectations were merely highlighted by the disappointment that followed this absorbing clash which, in many ways, underlined the club’s frightening transformation.
Body language and facial expressions told an intriguing tale. Divisional rookies Cherries cut glum figures. On the other hand, the belligerent men decked in white and tangerine, having had Jack Robinson sent off and irate boss Paul Ince banished to the stands, celebrated what is now considered a notable scalp, even among the second flight’s elite.
The reactions of both camps spoke volumes for a team which, less than a year ago, found League One an arduous, painful struggle.
Plumbing the depths of the third tier with a strong squad, Cherries were rescued by returning hero Howe, the club’s beacon of hope.
Fast-forward to 5pm on Saturday and the progress was as evident as ever.
Home losses are now greeted with surprise and disappointment, regardless of the opponents.
“I thought their defensive performance was excellent but you have to look at yourselves,” said Howe.
“I thought our attacking performance was a little bit below par. We were missing a lot of very good attacking players but that is no excuse. We needed to do better.”
Backed by Demin and led by Howe, the new Cherries have high hopes. Opponents know a trip to Dean Court will offer no easy points, a fact illustrated when visiting players joined 800 jubilant fans – one bare-chested and jumping wildly – to toast this result.
It was hard to begrudge Blackpool after a hard-fought victory which owed more to sheer determination and resolve than any great degree of flair and brilliance.
While boss Ince may have lost his bottle during a second-half flashpoint, his team certainly did not, despite often intense pressure from the hosts.
FA Cup holders Wigan became victims of the revolution in August and, for long periods, it looked as if Blackpool’s dogs of war may also be dispatched with their tails between their legs.
But although Cherries largely orchestrated proceedings – barring a patchy 20-minute spell either side of the interval – they were taught a harsh lesson in both boxes.
On seven minutes, failure to clear Robinson’s long throw proved costly as the loose ball fell for the Ricardo Fuller to send a pinpoint diving header beyond a full stretch Ryan Allsop.
But, for once, the leaders showed some fragility as they were undone in a not dissimilar manner shortly after. Steve Cook, again excellent at centre-half, hurled the ball into the danger zone and with Blackpool unable to cope, Lewis Grabban was alert and unerring as he swept home his fifth of the season.
From there, Cherries set about their high-flying rivals. With Blackpool limited to trying to utilise Tom Ince’s speed on the counter, Howe’s men pressed and probed promisingly. Brett Pitman’s clever run in behind allowed him to show deft touch and superb awareness to control and back heel for Grabban, whose drive was deflected over.
Ryan Fraser and Grabban seriously tested Blackpool with their pace and direct running as Cherries continued to enjoy the better of the play, although neither team could lay claim to a sustained period of dominance.
Cherries largely restricted the threat posed by Ince, who looks destined for the top, but they were given a reminder of his threat on 33 minutes. Winger Ince, son of manager Paul, roared clear when released by Fuller, only the post denying him after he had evaded challenges from both Cook and Charlie Daniels.
In truth, Blackpool rarely threatened in open play after that.
But they made another set-piece count when Ince’s corner to the near post was met by Neal Bishop, the midfielder claiming the final touch via a possible deflection.
Cherries were thrown a lifeline on 58 minutes when Robinson, already on a booking for fouling Fraser, was dismissed for again halting the flying Scotsman at full tilt. With more than half an hour to capitalise on their numerical supremacy, Cherries battered away as Blackpool retreated deep.
But expertly marshalled from central midfield by experienced skipper Barry Ferguson, they refused to wilt under the ensuing bombardment.
Substitute Wes Thomas almost made an immediate impact when he attacked a Simon Francis cross, only to head over the bar.
With chief playmaking duo Harry Arter and Matt Ritchie confined to the treatment room, Pitman dropped deep to prompt proceedings against a Tangerines backline which lived up to its pre-match billing as the joint-meanest in the second tier.
Cherries, who struggled to turn possession into clear openings, finally made a dent when Fraser rocketed into the penalty area. But after his shot had been blocked, Thomas saw his fierce drive deflected by a combination of Ferguson and Gary MacKenzie.
While his team kept their cool, manager Ince lost his in furious fashion following a glaring miss from Nathan Delfouneso. Ince was so enraged at the sight of the substitute lashing wide, he launched a drinks bottle which ricocheted and hit a female steward in the leg. Although quick to apologise, that did not spare him the ignominy of being sent to the stands. From there, though, he had a perfect vantage point to see his team repel wave after wave of Cherries attacks.
Thomas fired straight at Matt Gilks, who was superbly protected by a fine defensive shield, before Pitman hit the net, only to be ruled offside. With that, the game was up.
But with Ritchie, Arter and Tokelo Rantie only likely to add cutting edge to these encouraging efforts, the signs still suggest anything could be possible.
MATCH FACTS AND ECHO MERIT MARKS
Cherries: (4-4-2) Allsop 6; Francis 6.5, Ward 6, Cook 7.5, Daniels 7.5*; Fraser 7, O’Kane 6, MacDonald 6.5, Pugh 6 (Thomas, 70); Pitman 7, Grabban 7.5.
Unused subs: Hughes, Elphick, Harte, Cornick, McQuoid, Flahavan (g/k).
Tangerines: (4-2-3-1) Gilks; Basham (Orr, 52), Broadfoot, MacKenzie, Robinson; Ferguson, Osbourne; Ince, Martinez (Delfouneso, 62), Bishop; Fuller (Tyson, 75).
Unused subs: Grant, Chopra, Barkhuizen, Halstead (g/k).
Booked: Robinson, Ferguson, Gilks
Sent off: Robinson
Referee: Oliver Langford (West Midlands)
Attendance: 9,466 (incl 800 away fans)
STAR MAN - CHARLIE DANIELS
HARD working in defence and dynamic in attack, Daniels delivered another modern full-back’s display.
Aside from the swift counter which resulted in Tom Ince hitting the post, Daniels helped ensure the gifted Blackpool dangerman had no major impact in open play.
On the front foot, the defender was more impressive, offering much of Cherries’ threat with some trademark raids.
Steve Cook again enhanced his reputation, while Lewis Grabban also caught the eye.
Comments are closed on this article.