Written by Neil Dawson
Bournemouth edged into the third round of the Carabao Cup on penalties against dogged Forest Green Rovers who rode their luck but will be gutted tonight. Keeper Mark Travers is starting to develop a real reputation for the spectacular – following up his debut heroics against Spurs with a clean sheet of penalty saves tonight. He is the story that might survive on a night that will be soon forgotten.
As per the norm, Eddie rang the changes tonight although there was the surprise that the two Wilsons started. Harry less of a surprise as he eases into the team and one can assume Callum wanted goals and sadly still does. The other survivor from Saturday was Mepham who slotted into a more familiar back four. It was good to see Gavin Kilkenny start in the centre of midfield too.
The game started and proceeded with a familiar pattern, much Bournemouth possession but poor decision making or final balls making life easy for a determined Rover’s defence. Callum Wilson was in the thick of things early and volleyed into the side netting from a tight angle. His namesake Harry then took over with a wriggle through and a toe-poke that was brilliantly saved by the feet of Wollacott.
Ibe was seeing a lot of the ball but not quite gelling with Rico with many runs and stops and then the ball being recycled – mainly to Kilkenny who looked very slick and comfortable on his professional debut. The chances were just not happening though – despite some great crosses flashing across the goal from Stacey and Harry which Solanke and Wilson both hung back for when one should have gambled. The closest shot came from the unlikely source of Surman who rolled back the years with a twinkle toes run and thudding drive just past the post. Ibe then wriggled through but was again denied by Wollacotts leg.
The half drew to a close with Bournemouth upping the ante a bit with a horror minute for Solanke who completely misjudged Ibe’s cross when it looked easier to score then blocked Harry Wilson’s goal-bound shot when the ball came back in.
HT Bournemouth 0 Forest Green Rovers 0
The second half was much of the same – lots of pretty football with no killer ball or a killer ball coming in and Solanke and Wilson not near it. It became quite dull with Forest Green’s attempts to get out of their half completely denied by the dominant Mepham and Simpson. Stacey and Rico were also class defensively so it always looked like a shut out – the question was could we finally score.
That question was clearly troubling Eddie who removed the Wilsons for Weeman and Josh. This certainly upped the pace side of things and for a spell, Rovers were rocking. Once again though it was the outstretched boot of Wollacott that denied King when Fraser’s delicious pass found him free – the best save of the night (until Travers took over after the game). King was denied again by a more routine save with the hands and time started to run out.
With Bournemouth so far up the pitch breaks were likely and two came, presenting Rovers with their chance to win it – something that would undoubtedly have followed if either had gone in. First Mondial fired over then Surman blocked on the line from Stevens. Eddie looked livid – and on came Billing for the tiring Kilkenny.
The final push must have had Rover’s fans in pieces, particularly when Stacey was released out wide and clean through – his shot smacked back off the foot of the post though and despite a lot of (woeful) set pieces night was penalty bound.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man – Travers at full stretch to deny Mills, Dawson and Morton. King, Solanke and Billing finding the net with their penalties while Ibe was the sole home player to see his effort saved.
FT Bournemouth 0 FGR 0 (Bournemouth win 3-0 on penalties).
Travers 8 – Followed up his excellent debut with another heroic showing.
Stacey 7 – Good attacking presence and strong defending. A nice reminder to Ed.
Simpson 7 – Resolute and calm as he normally is against this level
Mepham 8 – Best outfield player for me – so dominant and good with feet.
Rico 6 – Good defensively, but some poor choices/delivery with the ball.
Ibe 5 – Lots of the ball but wasteful, slowed the game down with the odd great run chucked in.
Surman 6 – Does what he does in his normal calm way
Kilkenny 7 – Excellent control of the ball, first time passing and movement but tired late on.
H.Wilson 6 – Good vision and movement without ever dominating.
C. Wilson 5 – Still misfiring and hold up play/linking is not up to last years level
Solanke 5 – Expected much more tonight – power, runs, shots but no. Improved last 30.
MOM – It was Mepham until the shoot out. Can’t see how it can go to anyone bar Travers though, quiet game though he had prior.
We know these performances are disjointed. The stands are full of cup people wondering who was in goal and where Lys Mousset is. The queues are horrific and we pitch a whole new team against an established one. It’s hardly the magic of the cup at this stage and if anything the performance tonight was better than I have seen in other cup ties, the players looking less like complete strangers and more like a reserve side – which is an improvement of sorts!
The worry will be, as ever in these games, that some people looked well above the level and others didn’t – but should. Callum has not hit form yet and he is a key player for us so needs to. Jordan Ibe is now relegated pretty much full time to these fixtures for a starting appearance but still stops rather than takes people on directly with his pace. I am also worried about Solanke who I can just never imagine scoring or work out what sort of forward he actually is. He should have murdered those centre halfs but didn’t and spent too much time falling over. He did take his penalty very calmly though and hopefully, that will help.
In 360 minutes of football, we have scored one goal from open play – and that was a goal where one opponent passed to us and another deflected it in. This is very un-Bournemouth like and although we were unlucky on a few occasions tonight we didn’t move and create as we have in seasons gone by. We need to get this sorted as we normally need to score two to win or draw any match.
The positives were how dominant the defence was, the surety and elegant movement of Kilkenny who looks like a proper player in waiting and the confidence boost young Mark Travers will recieve – it was no wonder who all the players and staff ran to tonight. Burton Albion and a trip down memory lane for a lot of fans awaits in round 3.
Excellent and fair report, thanks, Neil. Positives for me: Kilkenny, what a gem of a player he is, strong, compact, rarely makes a mistake, reminds me of a young Wilshere; Mepham has morphed into Steve Cook – his best game in a Cherries shirt, mopped everything up, commanding in a sweeper-style role: Travers, looks the part, good with ball at feet, faultless with the pens; Wee Man looked busy when he came on, injected the pace that was lacking, ditto Josh; Stacey did ok, hit the post (I think) with one effort. Lastly, great to see lots of new faces in the crowd, mums and dads with sons and daughters, plenty of first-timers taking selfies. Great that so many want to come and watch. It ain’t easy getting a ticket for Premier League games, you’ve got to graft to get points on the board (I’ve been there) – the cups are an excellent way to start. We’re seeing new fans coming on board, that can only be a good thing. A lot of the young ones there last night would have been babes in arms when we got promoted to the prem, let’s hope we can keep them coming! – Join the conversation, click here.