Written by kirsikka
FA Cup third round. The day dreams are fulfilled, legends created and bin men match up against billionaire owners. An away game against a team lower down the pyramid on a dodgy pitch wearing it’s January clothes with a baying crowd, hyped up to eleven for the day, and fielding an XI stripped of some of it’s most valuable stars can see Goliaths tumble.
Oldham are in League 2 and we’re only AFC Bournemouth so it wasn’t quite those stakes but, given our current squad, they did find themselves playing at a higher roller table than they face most weeks. More disappointingly for them, two of the three aforementioned advantages were stripped away with no crowd in attendance and the tie switched to Dean Court due to a frozen pitch.
The Cherries did see wholesale changes but Tindall pulled a surprise in starting David Brooks in what was effectively a 4-3-3 with Kilkenny part of a central three and King leading the line.
We know well from most of our history that there was often an air of surprise from opposition fans after we played teams from a higher division when they saw we tried to pass the ball and not only hit it long to the wardrobe up front. There was almost a patronising element of damning with faint praise about it so I want to avoid the same mistake here if I can. Suffice to say, Oldham came to play football and made a pretty good fist of it.
It’s fair to say, they could easily have taken an early lead when a corner was met by a towering header into the ground which bounced up and was well saved from going into the top corner by debutant between the sticks Will Dennis.
The game flowed back and forth but was characterised by moments of almost quality. Attacks lacking in the final execution to create a truly clear cut chance were interspersed with some below-average play from both teams seeing simple passes hit astray.
The recent trend of failing to bypass the press when passing out from the back continued. I understand this was a hotchpotch team but if we’re struggling to make it work effectively in this match it only underlines the questions that have been asked about this of late. Either something isn’t working tactically with it, someone isn’t doing their job meaning we’re always a man light or we aren’t putting the opposition under enough pressure getting through to make them want to step back. It’s an ongoing concern.
Dennis belied his young status to show he was comfortable on the ball although perhaps sometimes a little too comfortable. Some of the passing was ticking into to the ‘high’ section of the risk-o-meter with one fired ball to Zemura leaving him struggling to cope. He gave it away but luckily the Oldham player shot wide.
When we did get hold of the ball and get forward we passed well across their outer line but had little penetration in the final line and so not too much was created despite spells of possession. Wantaway striker and former Premier League menace Josh King was trying. Unfortunately, it was in both senses.
Kilkenny seemed to be struggling to cope with the pace of the match, losing the ball and allowing breakaways to develop a couple of times. On 36 minutes this was almost costly only for a last ditch tackle from Carter-Vickers to prevent a clear shot on goal in the area. It spun out wide and was picked up by another Oldham attacker who stepped inside and curled a beautiful shot towards the far post with Dennis a spectator. Luckily for the Cherries, it cannoned back of the upright and was hacked clear. A fortunate escape.
Despite the chance, the longer the half went on the more Bournemouth saw of the ball and the further back Oldham were getting pushed.
After a period of sustained possession in their half, dragging them left, then right, then left again Kilkenny played an incisive forward ball into King with his back to goal on the edge of the box. He slightly miscontrolled but Brooks was hovering nearby and it bounced kindly for him to smash a first-time shot. I’m not sure if it took a deflection but the keeper acrobatically dived out of the way for the most elaborate non-save of a ball heading right where he was stood I’ve seen in a long time. 1-0.
Almost straight from that, an Oldham break ended in one of their players falling theatrically in the area about which Tindall must have said something as the coverage cut to Harry Kewell telling him to f off in no uncertain terms. It didn’t look like they’d be sharing a post-match glass of red but claret remained a possibility.
Kewell didn’t have to wait long though as two minutes later an Oldham ball inside the left channel left Simpson spinning on his heels and his man racing through free. Dennis chose to be decisive and rush out, getting a hand to the ball, only to then take down the Oldham player. A clear penalty which was despatched despite the young keeper managing to get a hand to it.
Half time and Tindall reverted to his break period Tinkerman persona, bringing on Rico for Gosling and changing the system to an attacking three at the back with plenty of license to get forward for the wing-backs and overlapping centre back.
The second half kicked off and, as we’ve often seen, the Cherries came out with additional impetus. Whatever JT says to them at half time, maybe he should start saying before the game begins.
Billing immediately made a difference, driving forward with purpose from our half and then slipping it to Brooks. With the ball magnetised to his feet, he drew in two defenders like iron filings and just at the moment they got too close played it to Stacey on an overlap. He cut it back into the six-yard box from the byline and Riquelme scrambled it home to secure the Cherries a 2-1 advantage.
The new formation made it look like the Cherries had an extra man going forward with Billing looking to step past his man and open up the pitch and Brooks becoming more and more influential. His combination play with Stacey was the stuff long term successful partnerships are made of so I hope we see it a lot more.
Having seen Brooks conducting things and no legal way to stop the music, Oldham started to smash guitars up on the amps. Or, rather, hack him, pull him down, block him or whatever it took to throw him out of his rhythm. A good ref would have spotted this shared targeting of a player and stepped in but Woolmer had the air of a bored PE teacher who’d had enough of the bloody kids and wanted to get to the pub.
Brooks’ temper started to fray a bit which is something he needs to address. Far better to cause damage with the ball at his feet as then he’s a titan. Letting it descend into a physical confrontation means he’s already allowed them win never mind the fact that he has the build for a fight of a man made from string.
On the other side, Riquelme seemed to have woken up and was also starting to impact the game. One glorious ball to Rico ended with a cut back for Brooks to take a shot that was deflected wide when well placed.
Where the balance of play in the first half wasn’t a million miles from being even, the longer the second period went on the more Oldham seemed to tire and the more the Cherries dominated. Sensing blood out wide, and perhaps with a view to protecting Brooks, JT swapped out the right flank with Smith and Anthony coming on for Stacey and DB.
The impact was huge with Smith creating absolute havoc with his runs and Oldham suddenly looking like they had nine men such were the gaps opening up.
Finally, the pressure paid off when a good cross from Anthony on the right was met by a King header which the keeper saved only to see it bounce off the hand of a defender sliding in on the line and go in. Cut to the effects mic next to Harry Kewell who informed us in a loud and clear voice ‘F… me, how has that gone in?’. A fairer analysis I could not make.
At 3-1, Oldham seemed to lose heart a little and offered almost nothing for the rest of the match. There was still time for the Cherries to add a fourth when Rico cut back from the byline, Anthony dummied and King fired home for a one that definitely couldn’t be attributed as an own goal.
4-1, next round of the cup, minutes for players coming back from injury and also for some youngsters. Job done.
Man of the match against Oldham