Written by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20) at the Weyline Stadium
Bournemouth Poppies tore apart high-flying Portland United 6-2 in the Wessex Premier Division, with Mickey Finch plundering a scintillating hat-trick at the Weyline Stadium.
Finch, starting alongside Steve Flynn for the first time since a heated stalemate against Hamble, buried the Blues with a relentless performance – capping off the victory with a trio of goals.
Striker partner Flynn notched a brace on his return from suspension, with Harry Cooper also appearing on the scoresheet.
Manager Michael Cuffie was able to start the Poppies’ in-form striking duo after a lengthy wait, but midfielder Ron Frost missed out on the trip to the coast through suspension.
Stepan Neronski and Cooper continued their partnership in the centre of the park, with Lucas Gelschleichter favoured over Shiv Roushbaiani for the clash.
The hosts’ new signing Sean Stewart, who won the Wessex Premier with Blackfield and Langley last season, was named among the substitutes by boss Brendon King.
A breathless encounter saw both sides launching the ball forward in the opening exchanges, but it was Poppies who raced into a two-goal lead within the first ten minutes.
The visitors raced down the right touchline before a delicate pass located Finch’s run on the far side of the penalty area. The electric striker controlled superbly before lashing beyond the static Jordan Tewkesbury on six minutes.
Just two minutes later, Cuffie’s outfit had beaten the gloveman once again. A scramble inside the box fell to the waiting Flynn, who coolly converted from close range to increase his impressive tally for the campaign.
The end to end nature of the clash saw Portland test Poppies’ shot stopper Sam Jones with a series of deliveries, before the home side halved the deficit. Jamie Beasley’s searching cross into the box forced Jones to claw away a flicked header, before Alex Godfrey thundered home the rebound at the far post.
Finch continued to terrorise the Blues’ centre-halves with a string of incisive runs and soon restored Poppies’ two-goal cushion. Jones’ long kick downfield evaded the Portland defenders, allowing the forward to race in behind and chip the onrushing Tewkesbury.
But a shade after the half hour mark, the pulsating clash took another dramatic turn when Beasley’s free kick was headed back across goal for Jamie Symes to fire home.
Portland should have been level as the home side began to take control – but were denied by the woodwork when Godfrey’s effort flashed against the crossbar, before the rebound was smothered by Jones.
The Blues’ miss was soon punished at the other end, as Cooper ensured a spot among the scorers. An in-swinging corner on 38 minutes resulted in hesitation between Tewkesbury and his two central defenders, allowing the midfielder to peel away from his marker at the back post and convert.
The visitors emerged from the break in devastating fashion, as Finch rounded off his hat-trick six minutes after the restart.
A delivery was floated towards the far post, and the striker was afforded time and space to nod home into the far corner and extend Poppies’ lead.
It was soon time for Flynn to further inflict misery on the beleaguered hosts, as the target man’s header floated into the roof of the net despite Tewkesbury’s best efforts.
Poppies’ away day in the sun looked set to end in a comprehensive victory, although the afternoon was soured by Chris Speers’ dismissal.
A long ball punted downfield allowed a Portland striker to chase down the loose ball – but a coming together between goalkeeper Jones, Speers and the home side’s forward resulted in referee Tim Blunt brandishing a red card.
Despite the man advantage, the Blues were unable to muster a response and Poppies swaggered to a comprehensive Wessex Premier victory.
POPPIES: Jones, Aldhayan, Speers, Elsom, Ohameje, Neronski, Cooper (Langston), Saadi, Finch, Flynn (Smith), Gelschleichter (Zintany)
Unused substitutes: Head, Roushbaiani