Written by kirsikka
The good thing about the Championship is that when you have a poor performance, the way the games come thick and fast it allows you to try and quickly made amends. So the Saturday nigglefest could be left behind for the Cherries as they tried to get back into winning ways against Preston.
The good news on the injury front was Lewis Cook being fit enough to start with Tindall opting to revert to the 4-2-3-1 formation that’s been successful recently, Riquelme coming in for his first start to play injured Danjuma’s role.
The opening spell was pretty tepid, Lewis Cook carrying the ball forward and also covering back well the only moments of note. Finally, on 13, a sweeping Cherries move from one end of the pitch to the other ended with Brown giving Smith a shove in the area with the referee probably correctly showing no interest in the plaintive appeals for a penalty.
Then on 15 Brooks ghosted past Ledson and, with Brooks looking to get into a dangerous area, the Preston player pulled him back. The second time he’d done that already in the match but the ref chose to keep his yellow in his pocket. This no doubt encouraged the Preston players as we’d see similar tactics used a lot throughout the match with almost complete impunity.
This season our set pieces have come under some scrutiny as we’ve had an inordinate amount but the vast majority have been extremely poor. The Brooks free-kick attempt probably hit a new low due to its impact as it went straight into the wall.
Preston charged forward down their left and, even though the man out wide had plenty of space to get a cross in, the Cherries had got back in numbers and so everything should have been covered. Except for L Cook, the defender at the back post had stayed ball watching for the whole counter attack and never once checked behind him. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Barkhuizen suddenly appeared in that space to knock the cross into the net unchallenged.
Rico may have been sucked into the middle to help out with numbers there but he would have done so knowing L Cook was covering his role. It was extremely sloppy from Lewis to not even check for a man and simply assume the cross would run out safely.
Having already got away with two pulls on Brooks, Ledson still engaged in an off the ball tussle with Lerma and still only got a quiet word from the ref who was being lenient in the extreme. It wasn’t that any incident was particularly bad from the Preston players, it was simply a constant stream of small offences that he never totted up and so they never stopped.
Meanwhile, Preston started to play the better football. They passed their way around the Cherries defence with more ball watching allowing a man to run free and fire in a shot from distance to which Begovic was equal.
On his full debut, Riquelme had looked over-eager at the start then started to settle down but still seemed to struggle with the Preston press.
It was a far from an impressive first half-hour from AFCB but on 33 Brooks again dribbled free only to be brought down by a very cynical foul from Pearson. Incredibly the ref still contented himself with a quiet word and no yellow.
Brooks is a player with a PL reputation and so there was as clear as daylight tactic to bring him down by whoever was closest whenever he looked like he might work his way into space. That can only be stopped by putting names in the book, it just never happened.
The 45 petered out with not a lot happening. Truth be told, the half was as beige as a pair 70s fashion slacks and about as dangerous. Time drifted away with little in the way of urgency from the Cherries players. I felt like I should have been watching it half dozing on a lilo.
JT has shown himself willing to ring the changes at half time and tonight was no exception. Off came Riquelme for Surridge to set up a more direct 4-4-1-1 with Solanke dropping a bit deeper.
One minute into the second half and that man Pearson again fouled Brooks but, despite being on a stringent warning from the first half, still no sign of that elusive yellow. I was starting to think the ref had some kind of allergy to it. Maybe we could slip him a loratadine before the next match he takes charge of here to see if that helps?
Still, at least the Cherries appeared to be playing with a bit more impetus and making the early running. Surridge was making an immediate impact putting himself about.
On 48 minutes Rico battled his way on the byline not giving up on possession with his persistence finally allowing him to swing in a cross which Surridge headed back from the far post perfectly into the line of Brooks. I was waiting for the net to bulge Hot Shot Hamish style as Brooks cracked in an unstoppable shot from the middle of the six-yard box. Except he completely missed the ball, a mistake that turned out to be doubly costly.
The ball instead fell for a Preston defender who pumped it clear to the halfway line where it was met by an attacker’s flick into the path of Scott Sinclair. He took a touch which left him in masses of space halfway into the Cherries half, looked up and saw Begovic off his line and coolly lobbed it over him from 35 yards.
If you want to be picky, after the weekend losing yet another defensive flick is annoying. Should one touch have given Sinclair all that space? Should Begovic have been so far out? All potentially reasonable questions but sometimes you simply have to tip your hat to an opposition player for doing something special. It was basic buildup play ended with a piece of quality which was the polar opposite of the Brooks attempt at the other end.
2-0 but at least Surridge was putting himself about effectively and causing Preston problems.
Then on 65 minutes, Lewis Cook committed a foul no worse than numerous other unpunished Preston ones and suddenly the refs allergy lifted as out came the yellow for the first time in the match.
Two minutes later when trying to break away near the halfway line Surridge slipped and whilst on the floor, the ball unluckily bounced off his hand. Lady Luck can be a cruel mistress sometimes as Preston played that free-kick short, knocked it into the inside right channel with a low cross coming over for Bauer to bundle into the net. Simple but effective attacking play leaving us completely undone at the back and 3-0 down.
Up the other end and as JT prepared a triple sub to try and change the course of the match, some Solanke battling won a free kick in a dangerous position. Junior has been very unlucky on three occasions this season already with direct free-kicks but this time he absolutely nailed a beauty. Straight into the top corner. Gamooooosh.
That was his last touch as Tindall went ahead and brought on Anthony for his debut to replace him as part of the triple sub gamble.
Finally, on 72 minutes a Preston player went into the book but it wasn’t one of the repeat offenders, instead, Davies fouled Solanke. The resultant Brooks free-kick was bad enough to make me snap the tip of my pencil in frustration.
The game started to drift again, although Billing was much more involved than recently. Always available and trying to impact things which was great to see. Surridge the other highlight still.
On 78 the ref then booked Lerma for the softest of calls, it didn’t look like he even made contact but the collapsed heap wearing a Preston shirt was enough to stop a promising Cherries attack and mean Jeff will miss the next match with a suspension. Given what had been acceptable earlier in the match to not get a yellow this was very odd.
In his sub appearance, Kelly was getting forward and knocking in some decent crosses. Finally, the Cherries made a breakthrough when Anthony took on his man and looked to have overrun the ball. However, he motored after it with the Preston defender waving him through and to his credit he just reached it at the byline and knocked in a perfect cross for Surridge to head home for his first league goal in Cherries colours.
As injury time started Lerma fought like a Trojan on the edge of the Preston area to repeatedly somehow retain possession before slipping the ball to an onrushing Anthony. An assist already to his name, the moment went to his head as he leaned back and sent the ball into orbit.
In the 97th minute, Ledson finally got his booking for a hack on Billing. That will teach him, I’m sure. I bet he’s sitting in the dressing room feeling suitably chastised about all the other fouls which went without a yellow.
All in all, an odd night. Constant little fouls aside, in other ways it felt like an end of season mid-table clash. There simply wasn’t the intensity you’d expect, at least from the Cherries. A bit of a dull watch with a few bright moments and a result that leaves us firmly in the chasing pack instead of trying to pull away at the top.
Man of the match against Preston
Granted Sinclair had a lot to do for the second goal and executed exceptionally well but quite what Steve Cook is doing not even offering any kind of a challenge to the long ball up is beyond me – emphasises your point well about them dominating our defence, but the fact is its self inflicted because we weren’t on it tonight.
Hope this game serves as a reminder to a team that is yet to fully click into gear that you can’t just turn up in this league and expect to take points.
Injuries to Stacey and Danjuma are not ideal as they have been 2 of the standouts so far this season, we need some of the others to step up in their absence.
Good to see Surridge and Anthony taking their opportunity with both hands, would like to see more of Zemura in that troublesome left-back spot.
Bit worried about Stan’s likelihood of breaking with so many games in a short space of time, I suspect we might revert back to that back 5 on Friday. – Join the conversation, click here.