SHOLING clawed back from 2-0 down to 2-2 against a young AFC Bournemouth’s side last night – only to be floored by virtually last kick of the game.
Arisitide Bassele’s first-half penalty and Jayden Stockley’s crisp finish had seemingly put Stephen Purches’s Cherries development side in control of this keenly-contested clash at the Silverlake Arena.
But with 12 minutes to play, a moment of magic from the Boatmen’s Alex Baldacchino opened up a match which Cherries had threatened to take control of before Sholing’s PJ McLean crashed home a late leveller.
However, Sam Matthews pulled a rabbit out of the hat, hitting livewire Harrison Gilkes’s deft touch first time with the 20-plus yard effort flying past rooted home keeper Matt Renouf.
Cherries were agonisingly close to taking an early lead when Brandon Goodship picked up a half-cleared corner but his low drive whistled just wide through a host of bodies.
Clever footwork and a slick one-two with Goodship set up Stockley to thump over the bar from an acute angle, while Alex Sawyer’s low drive brought the best out of Cherries custodian Jordan Holmes as the game ebbed and flowed.
Barry Mason had the pick of Sholing’s first-half chances but his unmarked header from a Nick Watts centre was off target, while Bassele was thwarted at close quarters by Renouf from Goodship’s low centre.
Goodship left the field nursing an injury but Cherries continued to make the running and were in front when Bassele’s nimble footwork was too quick for Sholing’s Dan Miller with the wideman slamming home from the penalty spot.
The rest of the half petered out but Gilkes’s introduction after the interval paid immediate dividends for Cherries, his driving run and cut back teeing up Stockley to slam inside Renouf’s near post within three minutes of the restart.
Cherries looked like taking a stranglehold when they twice rattled the frame of the goal as Stockley pelted the post with Renouf comfortably beaten, while on-rushing midfielder Matthews thumped the underside bar with a dipping effort moments later.
But the goal of the night was saved for the hosts as diminutive substitute Baldacchino received the ball 25 yards out and sent a sublime effort sailing over the helpless Holmes into the top corner of the net.
And Cherries were punished for their missed opportunities with four minutes to play as Dan Cox’s swinging corner was bundled home after burly defender McLean bullied his way through a host of bodies.
But Cherries were not done and Matthews went one better than his earlier effort to decide matters with virtually the last kick of the game.
Sholing: Renouf, Cuthbertson, Smith (Manders, 9), Mott, Miller (McLean, h-t),Sawyer (Cox, 58), Ba Mason, By Mason, D Mason (Hamilton, h-t) , Fennemore (Brewster, 56), Watts (Baldacchino, h-t).
Cherries: Holmes (O’Flaherty, 82), Muleba (Lee, 71), Buckley, Zubar, Kaye (Butcher, 56), Coulibaly (Wakefield, 56), Cornick (Gilkes, h-t), Whitfield (Benmadouch, 56), Stockley (O’Hanlon, 82), Goodship (Matthews, 28), Bassele (Walsh, 56).