Saadi strikes as clinical Poppies brush aside Andover New Street
Bournemouth Poppies’ flying start to the Wessex Premier season continued with a 3-1 victory at basement side Andover New Street.
Prolific hitman Steve Flynn had fired Poppies into the lead on the stroke of half-time, before captain Saadi unleashed a thunderbolt into the top corner on 57 minutes to place the Winton-based side firmly in control.
Claudio Herbert halved the deficit ten minutes later, but Mickey Finch wrapped up the points for the visitors late on after robbing Andover goalkeeper George Baxter of possession.
Rotation and new signing
Poppies manager Michael Cuffie made two changes from the side that emerged 3-2 victors at Bashley Road on Tuesday, with Charlie Langston and Stepan Neronski being restored to the starting line-up.
New signing Marcus Cullen, who put pen to paper for Poppies in a switch from local rivals Christchurch, was named among the substitutes for the first time. Chia Khedira also returned to the matchday squad after a lengthy absence.
The opening exchanges at a windswept Foxcotte Park fell in the visitors’ favour, with strike partnership Finch and Flynn proving to be a handful for Andover’s centre-halves. A string of corners on 18 minutes resulted in Saadi whipping in a delivery, which was narrowly glanced off target by Chris Speers.
Pressure from the visitors continued to build around the Andover 18-yard box, but when Poppies did get the better of Baxter, they were denied by the linesman’s raised flag.
Finch hurtled towards the penalty area on 20 minutes, before curling an effort that appeared destined for the far corner. However, a defender’s timely intervention provided the onrushing Neronski with the chance to finish, but the winger’s tap-in was chalked off.
Andover posed a threat on the counter through the electric Herbert, and the striker dragged an opening wide of goal after driving towards the Poppies backline.
Luke Neller was the next player in green to chance his arm, but the midfielder’s strike from 25 yards failed to trouble visiting goalkeeper Sam Jones. The gloveman then rushed quickly off his line on the stroke of the half-hour mark to deny Zach Neve the chance to fire at goal.
A physical match
The affair took another twist moments later, after a robust challenge on Shiv Roushbaiani angered Poppies’ technical staff, but the referee kept his cards firmly pocketed.
The visitors continued to probe for an opener and should have broken the deadlock on 37 minutes. After a delivery was repelled from the Andover penalty area, Harry Cooper lofted a delicate pass towards the unmarked Finch, who stood poised to shoot at the far post. But as the striker looked to pull the trigger, a superb interception from an Andover defender snuffed out the opportunity.
Cooper then came close to beating Baxter at the end of a superb solo foray, but the midfielder blazed narrowly off target from 20 yards with Saadi and Flynn in support.
Deadlock gets broken
Defender Harvey Elsom then teed up Cooper once again after meandering through the Andover midfield, but Cooper was unable to make contact with the ball, allowing Baxter to collect.
In first-half stoppage time, Poppies came agonisingly close to scoring once again. An incisive pass through the heart of the Andover defence picked out Neronski, who deftly evaded the approaching Baxter. But from a tight angle, the winger’s strike was smothered by a defender’s heroics at the near upright.
Just when it seemed Poppies’ frustrations would be compounded by the half-time whistle, the visitors edged into the lead.
Finch collected possession on the left-hand side of the penalty area, and spotted his strike partner unmarked across goal. The striker’s lofted pass was unerring, and Flynn duly tapped home past the static Baxter to record his 21st goal of the season. After the interval, it was the visitors who once again emerged the stronger side.
Tables are turned
Flynn inadvertently side-footed wide of the target on 47 minutes, although the striker’s blushes were spared by the offside flag. Saadi then floated a cross into a congested Andover box, before Finch’s strike deflected into the air and was collected with ease by Baxter.
The Poppies skipper would soon turn from provider to goalscorer, as the visitors doubled their lead. On 57 minutes, Saadi spearheaded a quick Poppies counter, bringing the charge into the Andover third before laying off to Flynn with a clever no-look pass. The striker then found Saadi once again, and the visiting captain duly rocketed a drive beyond Baxter and into the top left corner.
A nasty altercation between Flynn and Zac Hine saw both players brandished yellow cards, as the home side battled to regain a foothold in proceedings.
A clinical side
The deficit was then halved on 65 minutes, as Herbert’s swerving strike deceived the sprawling Jones before flashing into the far corner.
Pressure continued to build on Poppies’ backline in the latter stages of the clash. Shane Locke’s defence-splintering burst into the penalty area seemed destined to hand Andover a leveller, but Jones plunged to his right and palmed the effort out of danger.
Substitute Kylen Lewis then hoisted a delivery towards the penalty spot, where Neve was unable to test Jones with a glancing header.
But with eight minutes left to play, Poppies sealed their victory through Finch’s tireless running. Home gloveman Baxter’s heavy touch inside the penalty area allowed the visitors’ rapid striker to steal the ball and slot into the unguarded net – rounding off another successful away day for the Bournemouth side.
There was still time for ex-Christchurch midfielder Marcus Cullen to make his Poppies debut, and the versatile man almost marked the occasions with a goal, firing over the crossbar in the game’s final opening.
POPPIES: Jones, Aldahayan, Speers, Elsom, Langston (Ohameje), Neronski (Cullen), Cooper, Saadi, Roushbaiani (Zintany), Finch, Flynn
Unused substitutes: Khedira, Head
Written by Dan Davis (@dan_davis20)