Poppies battle back for Hamble stalemate

Victoria Park

Report from Dan Davis (@dan_davis20) at Victoria Park

Bournemouth Poppies grabbed a late equaliser in a feisty Wessex Premier Division encounter with Hamble.

A scrappy first half resulted in the visitors taking the lead, midfielder Ryan Wilkins delicately flicking a header beyond Sam Jones.

After the break, the game erupted into needless fouls and cynical challenges, resulting in both sides being reduced to nine men as tempers flared. Ali Zintany, on his return to Victoria Park, levelled for Poppies late on to ensure the Bournemouth-based side remain unbeaten in the league this season.

Poppies manager Michael Cuffie made two changes to the side that had brushed aside Bristol Telephone 8-0 in the FA Vase First Qualifying Round. Chia Khedira and Ron Frost dropped out the starting XI, with Aziz Aldahayan and Rob Head returning.

Zintany and Sami Garcia, yet to make his first appearance in red and white, were named among the substitutes, alongside fellow new signing Lucas Gelslech.

Mickey Finch and Steve Flynn, who have formed a formidable strike partnership, continued to lead the line for a Poppies side looking to remain unbeaten.

Hamble made one change, with Jake Newton dropping out of defence and being replaced by Alex Blake.

After just two minutes, Poppies should have edged into the lead. Finch, latching on to a long punt downfield from goalkeeper Jones, raced through on goal but lofted a delicate effort that dropped narrowly over the crossbar.

However, it would be the visitors who broke the deadlock in controversial circumstances on 22 minutes. A corner kick was whipped into the Poppies penalty area, in which Jones tumbled to the ground amid appeals for a free kick. Referee Peter Lowe was unmoved, and from the resultant cross Wilkins rose highest to guide a header that nestled into the back of the net.

The home side pressed immediately for a leveller and began to carve out more clear-cut openings. Harry Cooper tested Hamble goalkeeper Ryan Anderson with a close range header at the front post, before the in-form Finch bent a cross-shot wide of the target.

But just as momentum appeared to be firmly in favour of Poppies, disaster struck. Captain Fawzi Saadi was dismissed for his second yellow card five minutes before the break after a lunge on the touchline, reducing Poppies to ten men.

There was still time for Hamble to test the reflexes of Jones before the interval, but Nathan Lynch could only nod into the chest of the home side’s shot stopper.

After the break, Poppies boss Cuffie made two changes – new signing Gelslech and Victoria Park favourite Zintany were brought on as Bournemouth looked to haul themselves level.

The changes soon paid dividends, and the visitors were reduced to ten men. Mike Byrne receiving his marching orders, evening out both sides after Flynn’s heels were clipped as he looked to burst into the box.

Garcia was then introduced in Poppies’ final roll of the dice, the wide-man’s first appearance for his new club.

Gelslech, who put pen to paper at Victoria Park earlier this week, impressed since his substitution and tested Anderson’s reflexes with a bending free-kick 20 yards out. Zintany went close moments later, but could only prod into the side netting from a tight angle with a number of teammates hovering along the six-yard line. The former once again superbly carved out an opening, but his effort was comfortably gathered by Hamble’s goalkeeper.

Despite Poppies’ newfound dominance, the visitors should have wrapped up the points with nearly 20 minutes left to play. Hamble pieced together a clever move on the far touchline, which resulted in the ball being slammed across the face of goal. But with the target gaping and Jones resoundingly beaten, Ricky Bull stabbed over the crossbar from a yard out.

Following the near miss, parity was restored through substitute Zintany. The attacker was first to latch on to a loose ball inside the penalty area, and finished coolly beyond the recovering Anderson.

The Hamble shot stopper was then involved in a heated altercation on the cusp of 90 minutes. After a coming together between Anderson and Flynn, both players tangled nastily on the ground and were flashed red cards by the referee.

With time running out, and both sides reduced to nine men, Poppies continued to push for a winner and came agonisingly close on the stroke of the full time whistle. Finch stood poised over a set-piece just outside the box, but narrowly curled his effort wide of the angle with the Hamble substitute goalkeeper left beaten.

After the near miss, the game was brought to an end with both teams receiving a share of the spoils. Poppies now look ahead to another home clash on Tuesday, this time against Hamworthy in the Bournemouth Senior Cup.

Poppies: Jones (GK), Aldahayan, Ohameje, Elsom, Langston (Garcia), Head (Zintany), Saadi, Cooper, Roushbaiani (Gelslech), Flynn, Finch

Unused substitutes: Reilly (GK), Stacey