Scott Parker was forced to be flexible and to adapt in order to achieve three points as his side put in a resilient performance against fellow promotion hopefuls QPR.
In front of a home crowd, Bournemouth were tested to the final minute as the visitors pushed for an equaliser. Thanks to the flexibility and tactics of Parker, man of the match performance from Mark Travers and sheer determination of the squad as a whole, the Cherries sent out a strong message to the rest of the league.
A two-nil lead at half-time courtesy of the clinical finishing from Jaidon Anthony and Dominic Solanke was enough to ensure that QPR could not repeat their habit of completing come-backs.
When Sam McCallum brought the Hoops back into the game in the 57th minute, it was impossible to not think back to when the Cherries let go of a two-goal lead at home to Blackpool.
However, lessons had been learned, and a clear improvement in certain aspects had been made. It is not a situation that Bournemouth will want to find themselves in often, but in being able to come out with the three points, it showed they are capable to partake in the ugly side of the game.
Parker’s flexibility must be analysed as he displayed his ability to adjust to the climates of games in certain moments. Now fully resourced after the summer window with an arsenal of attacking and defensive squad depth, the head coach was able to use the reliable quality at his disposal to introduce new systems and certain qualities.
This was a luxury that Parker was not able to enjoy in the early games of the season with the transfer window still in operation and a list of absentees due to injury, but last night was a perfect example of how crucial a strong bench is.
Within five minutes of QPR’s goal, Parker replaced David Brooks to bring on Ben Pearson. The substitution pushed midfielder Ryan Christie to the vacant right-wing position. Pearson joined Jefferson Lerma at the base of the midfield to form a pair, with Phillip Billing pushed centrally in front of them.
The change of system saw Parker go to a defensive 4-3-3, which was a clear indication that the coach had identified his side needed to get control of the game again. This is done through retaining and distributing the ball in the midfield. Qualities both Pearson and Lerma possess. At this point, Bournemouth were not in the situation they would find themselves in going into the last 10, so Parker kept his wingers wide in order to enforce the patterns of play in attack, with the hope that the change in tactics would allow them to regain control.
But of course, this is easier said then done, and QPR are a side who are familiar in scoring goals and pushing defences all the way back to the touchline.
A consequence of the defensive 4-3-3 was that the midfield was now a compacted area, so this resulted in QPR being forced wide and seeking their goal through an onslaught of crosses. The final 10 minutes turned into an intense affair as Bournemouth were reduced to the confinements of their penalty area, as Mark Warburton pushed his side further up the pitch and players higher into the attack. This made it very difficult for Bournemouth to retain the ball.
Realising what kind of game it had turned into, the head coach introduced Chris Mepham in the 86th minute to change the system once more into a 5-4-1. Bournemouth were now reduced to committing their players behind the ball, making sure they were able to matchup the numbers that QPR had pushed forward, and defend each wave as it came. All three of Bournemouth’s strongest central defenders were now present to deal with the crossing game.
The substitution was further glorified as the Welsh international pulled off a last-minute tackle right in front of Travers to deny Andre Gray a very late equaliser.
Although the last 10 minutes were not ideal, it was inevitable that it would happen considering the opposition. What mattered was how the Cherries dealt with the circumstances, in which they did so through the decisions made by the manager, and responsibility taken by the on-field players to defend until the final minute.
Speaking on the situation Bournemouth endured in the second half, Parker said:
“Definitely elements I want to improve.
“We need to improve in trying to get a control back into the game and we have to do that on the ball in them moments.
“I understand it is easier then done. I’ve been in the arena, and I totally get that.
“It is now what is easier for a player is just simple commands. Head it, boot it.
“As old school as that sounds, that’s facts and for the last ten minutes that was what we needed to do.
“At times you got to grind out results and we grinded it out. We showed a side to us that was very pleasing.”
A shoutout is necessary for goalkeeper Travers as he stepped up to ensure Bournemouth took all three points. The 22-year-old produced five saves during the last 10/15 minutes, with every save bringing a reassurance that it was to go Bournemouth’s way on the night.
The Irish international showed last night he is worthy of the starting place in the team, as he made quick reaction saves whilst being assured and collected within his box.
Parker was sure to praise him as he expressed:
“The keeper came to the fore and pulled out some massive saves.
“He has come a long way in a short space of time. He was big for us tonight.”
The victory was not as a result of pretty football, but it came down to timely tactics and a realisation of what needed to be done. Parker is a coach who has achieved promotion from the Championship before, so he understands the certain elements needed in such games as last night in order to be successful. In combination with the excellent defending and fortitude from his players, Bournemouth now continue as one of two unbeaten sides. The Cherries have now sent out a big message that they have all that it takes to achieve success this year.