Premier League class is be­hind Cher­ries fight­back

The Football League Paper - - FA CUP FOURTH ROUND - By Alex Smith

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.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON THE MARC: Marc Pugh seals vic­tory for Bournemouth

SHOCK LEAD: Gary Roberts opens the scor­ing for Pom­pey

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