AFC Bournemouth 5 Doncaster Rovers 0: What must be another pivotal moment

Bournemouth v Doncaster Rovers - Gabi Tamas crosses the ball in a rare attack.
Bournemouth v Doncaster Rovers - Gabi Tamas crosses the ball in a rare attack.
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Two fixtures and two performances could hardly have been more different.

A year ago Rovers were returning from the near 500 mile round trip to Bournemouth buoyed by a late victory against one of their promotion rivals, a performance packed with fight and endeavour.

Fastforward 51 weeks and they crawled back up the numerous A roads and motorways at their lowest ebb following a performance of complete and utter submission.

Last season they left the Goldsands Stadium with renewed vigour for the fight ahead. It was a day when supporters began to truly believe they could win promotion back to the Championship.

Following their latest visit, doubts are now beginning to surface whether they have what it takes to make their return last more than a single season.

A hat trick from Yann Kermorgant and a brace from Harry Arter secured the most simple of wins for the hosts who did not have to be five star in any way to sweep aside Rovers.

Conclusions should not be jumped to after just one performance, particularly after some very good ones which have preceded it.

But it was clear to all who saw it that it was one that will take some getting over.

It was as woeful as Rovers have been for a long, long time.

Paul Dickov’s men were handed a real hiding, particularly in the first half when the damage done was much more than the two goals that were scored.

Even in the second half when Bournemouth somewhat eased off, it still felt as though they could score at will.

This was the first time that this Rovers back four have faced a side intent on attacking them head on and using pace as their key weapon.

There were crosses, and Rovers failed to deal with those adequately as well, but Bournemouth’s main threat came right down the middle with either balls in behind or players running at the defence.

The whole back four was made to look slow and ponderous as time after time Bournemouth got the better of them.

Young wide man Ryan Fraser was made to look like Cristiano Ronaldo as he charged at the Rovers defence time after time. His pace caused all sorts of problems, as did that of striker Lewis Grabban who gave Abdoulaye Meite a torrid time.

It did not take long for panic to set in which brought rushed clearances and a lack of composure. Lines were cleared but in such a manner that brought the pressure straight back on.

Redeeming features were few and far between.

Sam Johnstone was head and shoulders above anyone else in Rovers colours but having your goalkeeper as your clear man of the match when five goals have been conceded is hardly a positive.

The on-loan Manchester United keeper fully justified his call up to England U21 with a string of superb stops. It is safe the say without Johnstone’s heroics, the scoreline could have been worse. Much worse.

But the afternoon was not even a flawless one for him. Far too many of his kicks were sent out of play and plenty with no real pressure put on.

Alongside Johnstone, only Dean Furman could claim to have done himself any justice in the Rovers starting XI.

He was a lively presence in a rejigged midfield, at least attempting to close down the hosts with some urgency. Furman was also on the end of both of Rovers’ measley two first half chances.

But the midfielder was sacrificed at half time as Dickov shuffled his pack in a failed attempt to get Rovers back into the game. A degree of energy was certainly lost with Furman’s removal.

A hamstring injury to Mark Duffy forced Dickov to change formations from the preferred 4-4-2 of recent weeks to a 4-3-3.

It goes without saying that the increased defensive stability of a three man midfield did not materialise. Even when it became a 4-5-1 when Rovers were out of possession, they looked incapable of stopping Bournemouth in their tracks.

The hosts had the drive from the first whistle and rarely relented in the first half.

Johnstone’s heroics prevented Bournemouth going ahead as he reacted well to parry a second attempt strike from Fraser and tipped over brilliantly when Andrew Surman drilled on goal from an Ian Harte corner.

But there was little he could do on 26 minutes as Eddie Howe’s men went in front.

A cross from the left was flicked on and an unmarked Kermorgant lashed a first-time shot through the legs of the keeper to mark his first start for the club in style. And it would only get better for the former Charlton man.

Johnstone produced another excellent shot when Fraser got clear and tried to place a low shot which the keeper denied well.

It only delayed the inevitable as Bournemouth did grab a second before the break when Kermorgant beat little resistance to head home from a Matt Ritchie centre.

Dickov threw on David Cotterill and the returning Theo Robinson, switching to 4-4-2 for the second half.

But it was rendered futile within five minutes when Arter appeared on the edge of the area and drilled a low shot into the bottom corner.

Bournemouth seemed content to spend the rest of the game on the counter but Rovers were so poor they rarely had to worry about the defensive side of such an approach.

On 73 minutes they further emphasised their dominance when Kermorgant got on the end of a deep cross from the right and powered a header into the bottom corner to secure the first hat trick of his career.

It took 75 minutes for Rovers to muster a single shot on goal when Robinson hit a tame effort straight at Lee Camp who might as well have spent the game sat in a deckchair.

Eight minutes from time a miserable afternoon got even worse, sending plenty of the hardy Rovers faithful heading to the car park.

Johnstone’s first real keeping mistake saw him fluff a punch from a Harte corner and the ball was only half cleared to Arter who lashed into the gaping goal.

The remaining time could not go by fast enough for those with a Rovers persuasion.

When Dickov and his men went over to applaud supporters for their efforts in making the long journey, they were waved away by people angered by what they had seen.

Dickov himself felt the same way and kept his men locked behind the changing room door for longer than at any point this season.

A marker has been set. It cannot be as bad as this at any point in the next 13 games.

One way or another, the Bournemouth away fixture could be a pivotal point in the season yet again.