SUBS SINK COOK’S TROOPS
Premier League class is behind Cherries fightback
PAUL Cook admitted he feared for the worst after watching Bournemouth’s star-studded bench warm up as his Portsmouth side came within seven minutes of shocking their south coast neighbours.
The Premier League Cherries pulled off a second-half comeback after Gary Roberts finished off a fantastic team move had initially sent Fratton Park into bedlam.
But strikes from Joshua King and super sub Marc Pugh fired the top flight side into the fifth round and broke the Blues’ hearts.
The game changed the moment Pugh and wing partner Matt Ritchie entered the field just after the hour mark – and Cook knew the rest of the script.
League Two Pompey’s boss said: “I just shut my eyes and hoped when I saw Pugh and Ritchie coming on. They are such quality players and you know what their impact is likely to be.
“We knew a team of Bournemouth’s quality will have a spell in the game and they did that.
“We are disappointed to be out the competition but we’re really happy with the performance.
“On reflection we probably didn’t deserve to lose but we have and we can now concentrate on the league campaign.
“There was a major focus from the media and we wanted to make sure everyone spoke well about us as a football team after the game.
“We really didn’t a replay and I’m sure Eddie Howe felt the same.
“We had a good game, came second best and we wish Bournemouth well.”
The underdog hosts had the better of the opening stages as Sheffield United loanee striker Marc McNulty forced Adam Federici into a diving save with a fierce strike.
Portsmouth’s Liverpool loanee Ryan Fulton matched Federici’s early save when he deflected Juan Iturbe’s edge of the box flash onto the post.
Forward Lewis Grabban, on his first start since re-joining the Cherries, was inches away from clipping Eunan O’Kane’s in-swinging free kick into the back post as the ball see-sawed from end-to-end.
The hosts grabbed a memorable lead two minutes before half time with a fantastic team goal, following
the best part of two minutes in possession.
Former Ipswich man Roberts powering in his seventh of the season from close range after McNulty crossed from the right side of the box.
Pompey could have doubled or even trebled their lead as Ben Davies sent a free-kick goalbound, before Roberts lost his footing with the goal gaping.
But the dream faded when King nodded in an undeserved equaliser with 19 minutes to go – as he glanced O’Kane’s free kick in from the front post.
And after going close with a low strike across the face of goal – Pugh bundled in the winner after Fulton had parried Grabban’s snap shot.
It is the first time Bournemouth have reached this stage of the FA Cup since 1989, before most of the current crop were born.
But despite creating more history, Cherries manager Eddie Howe was furious with his side’s performance for much of the game – but couldn’t shy away from his tactical genius.
He said: “Once we made the subs we were the better team.
“The subs weren’t a difficult decision they are quality players and know how we work, they’ve never let us down. They changed the game.
“First half wasn’t a pretty watch, we were poor and Portsmouth were very good. They pressed us and out passed us – which Premier League clubs haven’t done this season.
“We have a lot to learn from it and thankfully the players came through it in the second half. A cup tie is always difficult here with the crowd and with the derby atmosphere.
“As the second half wore on we did the hard work and created chances. We have stuff to work on, we won’t get carried away.”
ON THE MARC: Marc Pugh seals victory for Bournemouth
SHOCK LEAD: Gary Roberts opens the scoring for Pompey