Written by kirsikka
After the disappointment of the last two performances and with Jefferson Lerma out suspended, AFC Bournemouth manager Jason Tindall switched things up tactically returning to three at the back. Sam Surridge came in after his excellent performance from the bench last time out with Philip Billing taking on a midfield role.
Despite possibly the worst kick off in the history of the club, the Cherries nearly took an opening minute lead when Surridge latched onto a long ball over the top into the channel. The Barnsley keeper, possibly still on a pre-match energy drink buzz, came careering out of his area but was second in the race. With the goal unguarded but from a difficult angle outside of the area, Surridge couldn’t quite squeeze the shot home.
It was the opening salvo in what was to prove a frenetic opening spell with the teams seeming to take it in turns to try and create something only for it to break down and head straight up the other end. Solanke never reached full throttle when he couldn’t quite get to a good Billing through ball whilst a header back across goal from Surridge was met with a Dom header wide and over the target.
It was the opposite of cagey, with Barnsley producing some slick football of their own to force Begovic into an early save and then creating chaos in the Cherries box after a free-kick that they worked into a dangerous area and Begovic spilled.
I’ll be honest, from a fan’s perspective it was ten minutes being played in an open way that was a joy to watch. Yes, there were moments lacking quality from both teams but it was exciting to see both of them having a go. The kind of football I imagine is the stuff of Sean Dyche’s nightmares.
Then on 11 minutes Smith and Brooks smartly exchanged near the touchline on the halfway line leaving Smith with a big gap to burst into heading diagonally towards the centre of their box. I was shocked to see Smith stay on his feet when the defensive nudge came in given his usual response and it paid off. Solanke’s decoy run dragged defenders away leaving Barnsley’s defensive shape a mess and Billing unmarked outside their box. Smith laid it off to him and, with defenders desperately bearing down on him, he controlled it, set himself and fired into the corner.
A very nicely worked goal and I hope we’ll see Smith try to ride the challenges more in future after this.
Billing was like a man reborn after last Saturday, showing all over the pitch and being decisive with the ball. One cut back nearly allowed Solanke to force home but for some sharp keeping. Meanwhile, Surridge was following up his last match with a physical display all across the front line offering us something different and the Barnsley defence a challenge they maybe weren’t expecting.
It was interesting to see how much we played it long. Tricky to say with certainty if this was to take advantage of having Surridge on the pitch or a specific tactic to try and exploit space we expected Barnsley to leave at the back given their cavalier approach to attacking. I suspect the latter and so commend the management for spotting it.
It was a half punctuated by several Barnsley warnings where they fired the ball across goal only for nobody to get on the end of it or, the one time someone did, Helik smacking a shot against his own player only for it to spin wide. Even given he’s now 60, I suspect Gary Lineker would have grabbed at least a couple for them tonight. They were those kinds of chances.
Despite the balance of play being fairly even, the half-finished with another clinical moment. A Barnsley player tried to dribble out of his half and three quarters rode a Billing challenge but the small delay this caused him allowed Lewis Cook to slide in and steal the ball and get it through to an onrushing Solanke. This time Dom burst into the area and smashed it inside the near post with his left foot. A great finish and huge bonus before the break.
No changes at half time but, despite the cushion, it still felt like a game in the balance.
Surridge continued to make a nuisance of himself and won a free kick on 50 when pushed over after muscling his way into prime position to chase down a ball. It seemed a fairly innocuous position, wide right and out from the area, but Rico must have watched Stan try to catch the goalie out from a similar position in a recent match. Rather than going for the expected cross, he fired directly at goal with pace and accuracy, catching the keeper unawares. 3-0 and the Cherries could relax a little.
To their credit, Barnsley didn’t give up and almost immediately forced Begovic into a save from a skidding shot and then fired yet another ball across the area begging for a striker to gobble it up but left unclaimed.
Throughout the match, there were some careless moments at the back with Mepham and L Cook the main culprits but each time the Cherries escaped unpunished.
Then on 67 minutes, Surridge robbed the Barnsley defenders of possession on the halfway line after a slack pass and headed like a tank straight at goal. Even when a defender tried to haul him down in desperation, he shrugged it off with derisory ease and sent in a shot from the edge of the area. It was close to the keeper and he probably should have saved it but could only take most of the pace off it, leaving the ball to squirm over the line without actually troubling the netting.
4-0 and the Cherries went into cruise control with multiple youngsters coming on including a second appearance for Anthony who looked the brightest of the bunch.
There was time for one outrageous tackle from Andersen on Gosling that could easily have been a red but the ref maybe felt he’d suffered enough and settled for the yellow.
A 91st-minute low interception from Begovic to cut out yet another ball across the six-yard box sealed the clean sheet to go with the three points that were already wrapped up with a pretty bow on top.
Man of the match against Barnsley
Billing showed what he can do tonight and he’s a great player when he does. I haven’t seen the stats but I’d wager he wins the ball back a lot more than anyone else we have, including Jeff. I really hope he can show this form consistently because if he does we’ll do very well. – Join the conversation, click here.