Stevenage were defeated on a controversial night at the Lamex, finishing the game with ten men, and ten confused faces, with a penalty the difference in a tight game.
The contentious decision came inside the first half, when the referee awarded a penalty to Bournemouth for a challenge on Eunan O’Kane. Steve Arnold came out and threw himself in front of the midfielder’s shot, the follow through led to O’Kane hitting the ground and the ref awarded it.
In the second half Boro improved but in truth, bar a few half-chances they never looked like grabbing an equaliser.
Darius Charles saw red late on, ruling him out of the game with Sheffield United on Saturday, but the reasons for the card were hard to see at first glance.
With David Gray suspended, there was a rejig to the back line – Miguel Comminges moved to his natural right hand side with Lee Hills coming in at left back, Charles and Mark Roberts continued in the centre. James Dunne served the second of his two game suspension so Greg Tansey and Anthony Grant held the middle of midfield with Luke Freeman on the left and Lucas Akins on the right with Sam Hoskins and Marcus Haber continuing in attack.
With less than a minute on the clock half the ground thought that Boro had the lead but Akins’ shot had deceived them; he cut in well and hit a rocket from range which was just wide - it hit the post behind the goal that supports the net and bounced behind.
It was a frantic start to the tie and a moment later Lewis Grabban had the Cherries’ first effort, but after breaking free in the area with relative ease his shot was poor and easily collected by Arnold.
Grabban had the games next chance ten minutes later, when a through ball cut the defence open. Charles stood with his arm raised expecting an offside flag, but when it didn’t come he was off – a brilliant recovery from the centre back put the Bournemouth man under pressure and a stunning challenge in the box denied him a chance at goal.
With half an hour gone and Comminges in front of the management dugout he went up for a header, he got the ball away but Cherries’ Ritchie challenged and they badly clashed heads. The two were down and Comminges required treatment from Paul Dando, Ritchie got to his feet but was bleeding heavily and had to leave the pitch and go down the tunnel – he didn’t return to the action, replaced by Ryan Fraser a minute later.
Seven minutes of the half remained when the away side had their lead, scoring the opener with a penalty. O’Kane played a one-two with Pitman to get into the box and tried to chip Arnold – the ‘keeper came out and threw himself in the way of it, but with so much desire that he followed through and caught the striker. He went to ground and after a moment of thought the referee pointed to the spot. Pitman took it, Arnold dived early and guessed wrong and it nestled into the back of the net.
After the break Boro pushed for an equaliser, Akins and Freeman linked up well with nice movement and quick passing and won a corner after just a minute. The ball in was decent and caused a scare in the six-yard box before being hit over the bar by Roberts.
The atmosphere in the ground rose, it was like a mix tape of the Boro favourite anthems, all following on from each other and warming the place up nicely. On the pitch, Stevenage were responding – Akins headed the ball nicely across goal but nobody could turn it in, Freeman hit an effort from range just over the bar and Tansey just wide.
Smith brought Shroot on with 25 minutes remaining and the number 32 would be hoping to score his first goal since December, a goal that would pull Boro level and a goal that, on the way the game had panned out, would certainly be deserved.
His impact was limited and despite having more possession the actual chances being created were at a minimum. Next Anthony Jeffrey came on, making his Stevenage debut, with Akins calling it a night.
To his credit, the on-loan Arsenal youngster had a few nice runs on the right wing and had chance to show off his pace. A shot from range also forced a save from the Cherries ‘keeper, albeit a simple one.
As four minutes were added on there was confusion on and off the pitch, Arter was on the ground requiring treatment, after he had challenged Charles. After 2few minutes of the physio being on the field the referee called Charles over, a straight red card was shown. What’s more, he booked Bournemouth’s Pitman too – and then sent the Boro fitness coach to the stands – it had descended into madness.
Four minutes were added on, but about half of that seemed to be played. The defeat was confirmed as the ref blew his whistle.
: Day, Iro, Beleck, Allen, JosephsUnused Subs
Arnold; Hills, Charles, Roberts, Comminges; Freeman, Tansey, Grant, Akins (Jeffrey 80); Haber, Hoskins (Shroot 65) Stevenage (4-4-2)