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Perrett's Verdict: Cherries 3 Tranmere Rovers 1
IF only he knew.
When Eddie Howe said “we are not suddenly going to be a totally different team overnight”, he could not have been any further from the truth.
On the evidence of this compellingly one-sided second-half performance, the transfor-mation took little more than 45 minutes.
For the majority of Cherries supporters, there had been little to cheer during the 638 days and nights when Howe had been plying his trade in the Championship with Burnley.
The League One play-off semi-final against Huddersfield in May 2011 under Lee Bradbury was |one obvious exception, albeit with a team assembled largely by Howe.
Apart from that heroic, but ultimately fateful, night in west Yorkshire, Cherries followers could write on one hand the number of times they had been roused by the team’s exploits.
However, the green shoots of a bright new dawn under Howe began to sprout when the good old days returned during a stirring second-half comeback, predictably played out in front of the Steve Fletcher Stand.
By Howe’s own admission, the first half had been “slightly disappointing”.
He felt Cherries’ passing had been slow and the tempo had not been to his liking.
But, after witnessing some of the dross served up over the |past 21 months, Cherries supporters among a season’s-best crowd of 6,233 did not need to wait long for an overdue fix of entertainment.
It was real Roy of the Rovers stuff as goals from Marc Pugh, Harry Arter and Simon Francis capped a fairytale return for Howe and Jason Tindall who started their second spell in similar fashion to their first when a 3-1 win over League Two leaders Wycombe in January 2009 had also seen Cherries come from behind to claim a memorable scalp.
And the fact they recovered from conceding a first-half opener and went on to record such an emphatic victory spoke volumes of the new era.
It was the first time in nine months that Cherries had hit back to win having gone behind – with Tranmere also surrendering in January when Martin Devaney’s opener had been cancelled out by Wes Thomas and Pugh.
That Dean Court victory over the Wirralsiders was also the last time Cherries had put together back-to-back wins – a feat achieved regularly during Howe and Tindall’s previous reign.
And, just for good measure, this was also the first time Cherries had netted three goals and |won since New Year’s Eve and the first time at home in 19 months.
The never-say-die spirit Howe will instil was evinced by skipper Miles Addison, who was culpable as Rovers took the lead through Jake Jervis six minutes before the break.
Addison committed himself and allowed Jake Cassidy to get the better of him before the Rovers striker teed up Jervis who finished with accuracy past David James.
From that moment on, Addison did not put a foot wrong and played his part as Cherries levelled through Pugh eight minutes after half-time.
He made his presence felt as Pugh’s free-kick eluded the Rovers defence before nestling in the back of the net, possibly with the aid of a deflection.
Pugh’s third goal of the season was to spark the beginning of the end of Tranmere’s impressive 12-match unbeaten league run as a typically-vibrant and energetic Howe-inspired display unfolded in the second half.
The art of wing play was in full flow as Pugh and Lewis Grabban both ensured Cherries would have width. Up front, Lee Barnard and Josh McQuoid worked tirelessly, another quality Howe will demand.
Full-backs Francis and Charlie Daniels got forward at will, while central midfielders Arter and Shaun MacDonald helped Cherries dictate proceedings as the team enjoyed a collective adrenaline rush.
Eddie Howe’s Barmy Army was rampant and a buoyant atmosphere, fuelled by a vociferous North Stand, gave the players all the encouragement they needed to take the lead.
McQuoid’s dogged persistence created a chance for Arter, the two players restored by Howe to the starting line-up combining to make it 2-1.
Arter rifled home an unstoppable right-foot drive from |just inside the box, a dese-|rved first goal of the season |and his first since he netted in a 1-0 win at Huddersfield in December.
The goal was sandwiched between Owain fon Williams saving from Pugh and substitute Matt Tubbs, although the Rovers goalkeeper was stationary as Francis’s 30-yard piledriver almost broke the net after 72 minutes.
Arter said: “The fans love Eddie and so do the lads.
“He creates that atmosphere very quickly and you could see it on the pitch.
“I don’t want to be too disrespectful to the previous management but he has got his ways of creating a very good team spirit and bringing together the lads as one.
“It felt like a different club.”
The last word, however, belonged to one man.
“It is going to take time but, hopefully, we can move things in the right direction,” said Howe.
Match facts and Echo merit marks
Cherries: James 7.5, Francis 7.5, Elphick 8.5, Addison 7, Daniels 8, Grabban 7.5 (Tubbs, 62), MacDonald 8, Arter 9 (Partington, 80), Pugh 8, McQuoid 8 (McDermott, 86), Barnard 7.5.
Unused subs: Fletcher, Cook, O’Kane, Jalal (g/k).
Booked: Francis, Arter, Pugh, Partington, Daniels.
Rovers: fon Williams, Holmes, Gibson, Taylor, Bakayogo, McGurk, Wallace, Palmer, Bell-Baggie (Thompson, 89), Jervis (Black, 73), Cassidy.
Unused subs: Harrison, Stockton, Power, Kay, Mooney (g/k).
Attendance: 6,233 (including 351 visiting supporters).
Referee: David Phillips (Sussex).
Echo Star Man
The central midfielder returned from a month-long absence to turn in an outstanding display alongside Shaun MacDonald who also starred.
Arter’s promptings kept things ticking over as Cherries failed to hit the heights in the first half before he came into his own after half-time.
His efficient movement and prudent distribution created numerous crossing chances for Cherries’ wingers and he was always looking for the killer pass.
He netted a crucial second goal with a stunning strike, his effort settling any nerves in the home camp as Cherries went on to dominate the second half.