Written by northstandmark
It’s certainly been an entertaining and eventful last month or so of the season for the Cherries. High scoring games aplenty, even if the quality has been variable and the results not always in our favour. As the curtain came down on the season yesterday in glorious sunshine, perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised by more of the same high scoring action.
Whilst I had a limited view of the far third of the pitch, unfortunately for much of the first half, my issues with the view were irrelevant as all the action was up our end where Palace were attacking.
Just a few minutes had passed when the first warning shot was fired. Midfielder Luka Milivojevic, often quite impressive against us, took aim from the edge of the box and clipped the post. Then Travers had to come and meet centre forward Batshuayi when put through on goal.
Palace had much more intensity about their play and looked confident. Despite having the second worst home record in the division, and despite their on-loan centre forward having struggled for goals since joining in January, they were looking very dangerous. And if ever a forward is struggling for goals, you can be sure the Bournemouth defence will be more than accommodating.
The opening goal demonstrated this perfectly, as Zaha put the ball in from the right, via a deflection off Smith it fell nicely to Batshuayi in the box, largely unchallenged. Only Cook offering ineffectual resistance as the centre forward hooked the ball into the net on the volley for 1-0.
Shortly after the lead was doubled, Palace working the ball out to the right again, it was driven low towards Batshuayi who slid in to meet it for 2-0.
And things got worse still soon after as Bournemouth lost the ball on the attack, McArthur setting Zaha free into acres of space. The dangerman met no resistance as he strode into the box, and only a solid save from Travers prevented Zaha scoring. Unfortunately, the young keeper’s save cannoned into Jack Simpson and back into the net for 3-0, and seemingly game over. Our young pair certainly unlucky at this moment, but it was another preventable goal.
Right before half-time was some hope was found. Jeff Lerma picked the ball up inside the Palace half, with nothing much on, he turned and absolutely lashed it at goal! The ball going in off the woodwork for 3-1. My view of that end being poor meant I couldn’t fully appreciate what a strike it was in the moment, but it is a cracker so please go and find the footage.
The talk at half time was about how we could change things? We didn’t have too many options on the bench save youngsters. Perhaps bring on Mepham going 3 at the back?
Eddie decided to keep it as is and sent them back out with a bit of a gee up. Unfortunately, Palace started yet again much brighter, and only Travers could prevent the score increasing again. Two excellent stops from midfielders Townsend and McArthur as our young keeper continues to earn his reputation as a shot-stopper.
As Palace threatened to increase the score, it was the Cherries turn to counter. Smith managed to get away down the left and put the ball across to Jordon Ibe on the edge of the box. Ibe controlled well before shooting. I thought it quite a speculative shot had that little chance of going in, but somehow Ibe managed to squeeze it into the bottom near corner past the goalkeeper for 3-2, and really add some competitiveness to the score again. Ibe went close to an equaliser shortly after.
That optimism was short lived however as Palace went through the Cherries side with ease, Zaha and Van Aanholt combed on the edge of the box to bamboozle our defence and put the Dutch wide-man through, and he slotted through Traver’s legs for 4-2.
Howe changed things up at this point, Mousset and Mepham coming on for Ibe and Simpson. I thought both were a little odd. Not only was Mepham for Simpson like for like, keeping in place the defensive formation that Palace were ripping apart when the opportunity was there for change shape. But also Ibe was actually looking bright and our most creative outlet. Why take him off? If Mousset was going to replace anyone, it should have been the largely anonymous King or Wilson.
With Ibe off and Mousset playing further forward, there was now no creative link between the central midfield Lerma and Ake (not exactly known for their creativity) and the front men. It was disjointed with this massive gap.
Still, the Cherries persisted, and we were given a lifeline with 20 minutes left when a Fraser corner was flicked on by Mepham to the back post, where King was able to bundle the ball home for 4-3. Game on, again? Plenty of time remaining.
For just a few moments there seemed to be something in this for us, Palace suddenly looked rattled, were lucky to keep 11 men on the pitch when referee Roger East showed leniency following a poor challenge, and Zaha was showing his petulant side. This was the time to turn the screw, had we done so I think Palace were close to folding.
But back came Palace to seal the points, all too easy again. Zaha turning back on the quality side of his game instead of the silly side, he burned through the Cherries side with Clyne and Lerma offering not nearly stiff enough resistance. Clyne practically jumped out the way to allow Zaha to cross into Townsend who applied a cool finish, again in too much space, for 5-3.
It’s hard to know how much to read into that performance, there would be a lot to criticise if you wanted to take it seriously. It was clear that Palace were the more motivated side. As well as several players just having bad days such as Simpson, Cook, too many were just anonymous such as Clyne and Wilson.
Eddie could have done better also. Granted the squad is very thin giving him few options to play with, but I feel we should have brought Mepham on earlier and moved to a formation of 3 centre backs. Palace had the measure of our 4-4-2. With clever inside forwards in Townsend and Zaha, they picked gaps between our lines, whilst full backs Wan-Bissaka and van Aanholt kept our wide men busy and Batshuayi dominated Cook and Simpson. Lerma and Ake can’t be expected to keep quiet two inside forwards from a central midfield position. It left Townsend and Zaha basically free with nobody picking them up. Whilst we were rigid Palace were fluid. We never tried to change the system and correct this.
Being tactically outdone by Hodgson will be a concern for Eddie, although I can imagine how frustrated Eddie is with our injuries that give him so few cards to play with. An 89th-minute sub on for Surridge was weird, what’s the lad going to do?
Travers 6 – For a keeper that conceded 5 goals, he scores respectably because he made several good saves. Totally hung out to dry by those in front of him. Perhaps he could have pushed the ball wider for the 3rd goal, but that’s being really picky.
Clyne 3 – Deeply unimpressed by this bloke. For his level of experience and CV, he’s massively underperformed.
Cook 4 – Disappointed that he couldn’t hold the line together a bit better and provide more of an example for the two more inexperienced lads nearby. Got bossed around by Batshuayi throughout.
Simpson 4 – That was a steep learning curve for our young defender. One element that Jack needs to work on is his aggression and physicality. Perhaps our Fletch could give Jack some pointers in standing his ground. Fair to say Cook is a Rolls Royce also, making this CB pairing particularly mismatched yesterday.
Smith 5 – Defensively as bad as the rest, but he was bright in attack and created some of our best openings.
Lerma 6 – One of the best individual strikes you’ll see, completely from nothing. That said he couldn’t make more of an impression on the game.
Ake 5 – Looked a bit lost at times. I think he knew he was a central midfielder, but he could see the impact the inside forwards were having on the game and was caught between those two pillars. He’s good enough to contain a Zaha, Townsend, or Batshuayi if we put him in a position where he could do so. But in a central midfield duo, he couldn’t help out those behind him or influence the attack much either.
Ibe 6 – A bright performance from Jordon, certainly one of the better players yesterday. He made things happen, took his goal well, and was unlucky to be subbed off. My only criticism would be that he’s too slow on counter attacks, when he’s better to keep running direct using his pace, rather than stopping to dribble a defender. As ever we see glimpses of a real player in there somewhere and it raises the question: How do you solve a problem like Jordon?
Fraser 5 – One of his quietest performances of the season, another caught between the two worlds of helping contain Palace’s pace merchants versus creating for us, and he did neither particularly well.
King 5 – Tapped in to give us hope, but never had any great impact on the game.
Wilson 5 – Couldn’t really get in the game, can’t remember him having an effort on goal, not helped by the supply line.
Only thing I would add is that I thought we started brightly and created some decent opportunities before Palace scored.
I thought Zaha was going to get sent off, the ref was very close to giving him a second yellow, if that had happened I think we could have gone on to win. The entertaining game though and I am not going to get too upset over our poor defending etc – after all, we have known about it for 4 seasons now.
Met a couple of Columbian guys in the Bournemouth section, resplendent in their yellow shirts and with the national flag. pleased for them they saw their hero Lerma score and it was an absolute belter. worth the admission money on its own. – Join the conversation, click here.