Bournemouth’s epic run without a defeat came to an end tonight after a brave effort against Premier League Wigan.
Ultimately the woodwork and one fatal error was the difference in an absorbing cup tie between two good footballing sides.
Eddie started with Thomas up top, a surprise to some fans, and restored Hughes to the midfield with Pitman and Pugh dropping to the bench and Grabban starting on the right. It was a direct match up as he had done at the JJB stadium.
In freezing conditions with the pitch a bit of a hard bumpy lottery it was Bournemouth who started brighter with a very loud crowd roaring them on. Martinez had obviously told them to turn us around if they won the toss – so we couldn’t attack the fans in the second half. Thomas turned and sent a snap-shot over and Francis volleyed high from a tight angle as the game warmed up.
Both sides looked to pass at every opportunity and it was like chess in the opening quarter of an hour – quite slow and not the normal fare when attacking the Fletcher stand. If anything we showed Wigan too much respect and stood off them as they played a lot of continental style triangles.
The important thing was not to concede and it was a shame that when we did we were the architects of our own down-fall. Arter had a brain freeze just outside his area and presented the ball on a plate to BOSELLI – the Argentinan striker taking one touch before launching a glorious drive that flew past Jalal into the top right hand corner. That sparked a period of total Wigan control with Bournemouth chasing shadows for quite a period as the crowd’s noise subdued. To make matters worse Grabban then limped off after a hefty challenge to be replaced by Pugh.
With Eddie imploring us to get at them we finally cracked into the game and had a great last quarter of an hour. The catalyst was Thomas closing down Benet, forcing an error and releasing O’Kane. There was to be no repeat of his heroics in the first leg though as his fizzing drive smacked back off the cross-bar. This gave us hope though and pressing far higher up the pitch and dictating the tempo we started to play our normal game.
Pugh was starting to cause mayhem and Daniels was far more prominent with his buddy back on the pitch. Thomas was running well in the channels but too often crossed to nobody as we tried to adjust to one up front. Wigan closed well though and the result was a sea of corners and winning back possession that had the crowd pumped and the team leaving to an ovation.
HT Bournemouth 0 Wigan 1
The second half started with us continuing to press high and have a lot of possession, particularly on the left where we doubled up well. We lacked presence in the box though and too often great approach play was met with a routine clearance. Thomas did meet one cross with a header but it was a routine save for Al Habsi who had appeared as a half time sub for Pollitt.
Cook’s long throws had caused problems all game and one managed to miss everyone and bounce past the post Rory Delap style.
Bournemouth then started an end of game rally that had Wigan on the ropes but couldn’t produce a goal. First Daniels crossed for Thomas to fire wide at full stretch, looking like he was being held. Arter then smashed a 20 yarder that Al Habsi fisted out from the top corner. Fogden appeared for Mcquoid and he wriggled into the box to set up Arter again but Al Habsi got his body to it and it trickled agonisingly past the post.
Wigan only really were playing on the break but like all continental sides (I must check Wigan out for a sunshine break) they broke well and at speed. From one such counter Jalal pulled off a brilliant full stretch save to deny Bosselli’s headed effort from reaching the bottom corner.
Bournemouth were starting to tire, after Saturdays game on the heavy pitch and the chasing they did tonight in the first half when Wigan moved it well it was no surprise.
The last throw of the dice was former FA Cup hero Matt Tubbs for Hughes. It nearly paid off handsomely. First the diminutive hitman latched on to a loose ball on the corner of the box and smacked a ferocious drive against the cross bar, then he curled a 25 yard free-kick that Al Habsi got his finger tips too. There was still time for Wigan sub Dicko to live up to his name when presented with an open goal on another counter attack.
And so the cup run and the epic record breaking run came to an end but there was much to be proud of.
FT Bournemouth 0 Wigan 1
Jalal 7 – Some great stops and solid distribution.
Francis 8 – Overlapping, never tiring, pacey defending.
Elphick 7 – Solid non nonsense defending
Cook 9 – Brilliant unflustered display and always in command
Daniels 8 – Energetic skilful classic overlapping full back display
Mcquoid 6 – In and out of the game with frustrating first touch.
Arter 7 – Quiet first half but pulled strings better in second half.
O’Kane 8 – Bustling skilful display and is turning into a great player
Hughes 7 – Calm head with good tackling and reading of the game
Grabban 6 – Too short to make an impact. Hope its not serious.
(Pugh 7 ) – Unlucky to be left out and had full back on toast at times
Thomas 7 – Held ball very well and worked hard bringing others in.
We played very well for the last 60 minutes when we stopped admiring Wigan’s pretty football. Defensively we were superb, one fatal error aside. They always say that the difference between the premier league and other leagues is mistakes get punished almost every time and this was sadly the case.
Some of our approach play would have impressed Martinez and it was a joy to watch but as on Saturday we lack muscle in the box and too many crosses are headed or volleyed clear unopposed. Far post crosses are rarely won either and solving this could be the key to success come May.
The players can hold their heads up though after more than matching Wigan over two games and a neutral would have struggled to pick out the premier league team the first half an hour aside. I don’t think Eddie will be too disapointed either avoiding fixture congestion and another long away trip North. We would have stood a good chance of the fifth round as well and if we had been given a glory tie it could have been a distraction for three weeks.
So, great entertainment and now we can concentrate on the league. Not a bad way to end the run. It looks like we have signed a right winger today – Fraser from Aberdeen will be arriving and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a couple of departures. It should be an interesting next fortnight.
Report by Neil Dawson
Neil Dawson added…
I think it may have been Pugh that hit the crossbar second half – have received a few texts saying I am blind. Apologies if it was – could have sworn it was Tubbs but SkySports saying Pugh too so I could be wrong……… it happens!!