Date: 26th September 2018 at 5:48pm
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Written by northstandmark

Caught up as I was with thousands of others queueing outside Dean Court, waiting to be searched before I could get through a turnstile, I, unfortunately, missed the first incident of note last night. Fair to say it wasn’t the last incident though, in what eventually became a dramatic cup tie.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about Blackburn forward Brereton’s opening effort ruled out for offside, perhaps someone else can elaborate? But the team who lined up consisted of 9 changes from that disappointing afternoon in Burnley. Only Adam Smith and Jefferson Lerma kept in, with the rest of the team thrown over to players looking to break into the regular league side.

Blackburn lined up with a 5 man midfield to try and contain Bournemouth, with former Everton, Man City, and Sunderland man Jack Rodwell a notable name, making his debut for the visitors. It would be up to Cook and Lerma to match up against the visitor’s central trio.

I took my seat just in time to see Blackburn and Brereton again cause concern, the ball falling to him at the back post, 3 yards out with an open goal to poke into, Brereton couldn’t sort his feet out and the guilt-edged chance went begging. The Cherries awoke from these scares and went straight up the other end, Simon Francis of all people surging forward and firing a cross that very nearly deflected into the net, just a smart hand from Blackburn keeper Raya tipped it over. It was to be a long night for Raya who impressed throughout. The following corner saw Mings with almost a free header, which he put straight down Raya’s throat. If directed either side, Mings would have scored.

Bournemouth weren’t to be denied long, however. Another Francis foray into the opposition half, reminiscent of those Championship days, saw a cross flashed across the box to Stanislas. Junior caught the ball at awkward height emphatically, volleying into the net with his left boot, the ball arcing beyond the keeper beautifully.

The returning Stanislas was showing no sign of any rustiness after his time out injured, he was popping up all over the pitch, was spot on with his first touch, and was causing Blackburn many problems. He and Ibe would switch flank from time to time, Junior giving both full backs a test. Later he put a free kick effort towards the near post forcing Raya into action again.

Further chances came in a first half that was bright for Howe’s Cup side. Defoe had two efforts saved, from which he’ll be disappointed not to score. Lewis Cook was playing balls into Mousset at will, Lys in turn linking up play with those around him nicely. All told, the early Blackburn chances aside, at halftime we could reflect on a positive half which should have seen us further ahead than the single goal.

The second half opened without major incident until Jordon Ibe won the penalty to give Howe’s side their 2nd goal. Now on the left flank, Ibe had the ball right on the by-line facing two defenders. He stopped momentarily, and then surged past a defender, going down in the process. The penalty calls from the North Stand weren’t exactly deafening, but referee Hooper pointed to the spot all the same.

It was soft, and Blackburn players were very upset. But it was given, and now came the question of who took it? Joshua King was on the bench. So a conversation started between Stanislas (already on a goal), Defoe as a senior forward, and Ibe as the man who had won the spot kick. After several moments of debate, Ibe ended up with the ball on the spot. He very calmly sent the keeper the wrong way and placed the ball into the very bottom corner of the net. A perfect penalty, Ibe’s best contribution of the night.

With the lead doubled, an air of safety came over Dean Court, and it didn’t take long for Blackburn to seize the initiative. When Lerma was dispossessed midway through our half Blackburn’s Conway still had plenty of work to do, but he run forward largely unopposed and unleashed a low and hard drive that beat Boruc and rifled into the net. An excellent strike, although a shame about the Lerma mistake and the lack of cover from his colleagues.

Blackburn sensed blood now and the game had completely turned, from comfortable to open and panicky. Stanislas was put on goal by a brilliant through ball which caught the keeper in no-man’s land. Stanislas tried a lob which was just a tad under-hit and caught by Raya. Otherwise, it was mostly Blackburn pressure. Stanislas and Mousset were withdrawn for Pugh and King, with Mousset visibly carrying a knock from various robust challenges he had endured during the evening.

Blackburn in quick succession had a series of efforts on goal which were blocked or saved before the ball fell to Brereton causing Cherries defender Tyrone Mings to launch into a bizarrely reckless lunge for the penalty area. Stonewall penalty given, and converted by forward Adam Armstrong. It momentarily looked to have been missed as the strike clattered the post, before crossing the goalmouth and nestling into the opposite side of Boruc’s net.

With the game level and a penalty shootout looming, Wilson was thrown on for the sub-par Defoe, and the game turned again as Howe’s side switched back into attack mode. Pugh was causing trouble, although somewhat disjointed with Adam Smith behind, both always wanting to come inside. The same was true of both Ibe and Stanislas previously though. On the other side, King was roaming with Ibe floating around in support, Wilson the central spearhead. Ibe found himself with two efforts at goal late on, both from the edges of the box. One tamely passed back to keeper Raya, the other high and wide. Jordon’s frustration with himself was visible and audible.

In stoppage time it was Wilson who forced perhaps the strangest moment of the game. With much of the Blackburn side further forward looking for a direct ball, the defender in possession Derek Williams was closed down by Callum. Williams slipped, about it give Wilson a clear run at goal. So on the floor, Williams literally picked the ball up! Perhaps hoping to get a foul, or more likely just cheating to do the only thing he could to prevent Wilson a clear run at goal, with full time and a shootout just minutes away. The referee Hooper pulled out the red card Williams gave no complaints as he trudged straight off down to the dressing room.

From the resulting free kick, a Wilson looping header cannoned off the crossbar. the ball dropping to Simpson who nearly converted but forced another good save from the impressive Raya. The resulting corner was swung inwards from the north/main stand corner, where it was met by both Wilson and Francis jumping highest in a crowded box. Into the far corner, it went from Wilson, sending Dean Court into a mixture of relief and joy, as the entire Cherries outfield team mobbed their goal machine in celebration. Cup tie rescued, penalty shootout averted, cheating defender given his comeuppance. A satisfying end!

Howe will reflect on a disjointed performance, with a mixture of conclusions.

In general, the attack worked well, as evidenced by the sheer number of good chances created. Defoe will be disappointed not to have converted any of his chances. Ibe whilst winning and scoring the 2nd goal, will be disappointed overall with his contribution. Credit goes to Mousset and Stanislas, as well as the 3 successful changes King, Pugh and Wilson.

The midfield of Lerma and Cook generally did well up against the opposition 3, but they should carry some responsibility for the second half drop in tempo and momentum that let Blackburn back into the game. Lewis Cook whilst not hitting his top game, moved the ball around very well and was always a step ahead of any opposition. Some lovely turns and defence-splitting passes, and good covering and tracking back when needed. Lerma was similar but gets marked down for getting robbed leading to the first Blackburn goal that turned the game.

The defence was disjointed, but that’s not really a surprise. Smith out of position on the left, not really able to combine with narrow wingers in attack, as he wants to come inside on his right. But at least Smith defended reasonably. Mings going over the top with that lunge giving away the equalising penalty. Simpson generally comfortable although caught in possession once or twice. Francis rolling back the years in attack with some excellent crossing, but playing hospital passes to Simpson on a few occasions, which the young defender could have done without.

Boruc – 7 did what was needed

Francis – 7 Excellent going forward, only suspect moments defensively. Clearly good against that level of opposition though.

Simpson – 6 Slightly out of position as a right-sided defender, didn’t seem overly bothered, but a few misplaced passes in dangerous areas the only blot on his copybook. Unlucky not to score late on.

Mings – 5 Not his best night, even aside from the penalty he didn’t look as assured as Simpson

Smith – 7 Always bright and involved

Ibe – 6 He won and scored a penalty, so that deserves a basic positive score, but everything else was frustrating

Cook – 7 Always a step ahead against that level of opposition, always creates time on the ball

Lerma – 6 Similar to Cook, but marked down for his one error

Stanislas – 8 Best player on the pitch, excellent finish, always causing trouble. You’d never know he’d been out for months.

Mousset – 7 Despite getting kicked around a bit, Lys never stopped working, finding space, and making things happen. Nice touches, unfortunately just no chemistry with Defoe

Defoe – 5 Didn’t really fit into the patterns of play, still received chances for a couple of goals but missed them all.

Pugh – 6, King -7, Wilson – 8

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