Eddie Howe has defended making 10 changes for Bournemouth‘s edgy 2-1 FA Cup win at Portsmouth, insisting two match-turning substitutions offset the “risk” of fielding a weakened team.
The arrival of Matt Ritchie and Marc Pugh on the hour and Joshua King’s switch through the middle sparedBournemouth‘s blushes at Fratton Park.
King and Pugh found the net to cancel out Gary Roberts’ first-half goal for hugely-impressive League Two men Portsmouth.
Pompey boss Paul Cook revealed “I just shut my eyes” when Bournemouth sent on the cavalry – an admission to back up Howe’s calmness over the calculated gamble of wholesale changes from last week’s 1-1 Premier League draw at Sunderland.
“It’s always a risk, you don’t know what the outcome’s going to be,” said Howe when asked if his selection was a gamble.
“But I believe that the players, when you look at them individually, are all very good players.
“They’ve all done it at a very good level, so I had no hesitation in making the changes.
“We absolutely trust all our players and need to give them chances.
“And we need them to be fit, this was a great opportunity to get them games so they are still ready to go in the Premier League.
“It was a very tough game, we expected it, we knew it was going to come.
“Credit to Portsmouth they were very good, they passed the ball, they pressed us. We didn’t get into any rhythm, and it took us really to get the two subs on to get control of the game.
“But once we did we were very good until the end of the game.”
Match-winner Pugh was not even two years old the last time Bournemouth reached the FA Cup fifth round, in 1989.
The Cherries were relegated to League Two when Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008, but met here at Fratton Park having firmly traded places.
Boss Cook’s composed Portsmouth side totally belied the 56-place gap in the league pyramid in a dominant first-half against the Premier League visitors.
Roberts’ strike was just reward for that effort, sending Portsmouth in 1-0 to the good at the break.
As the hosts started to tire however, so Bournemouth boss Howe sent pacy pair Ritchie and Pugh into action – with clinical consequences.
Norway forward King flicked a header home before Pugh bustled the winner over the line from a corner.