In these parts Chris Billam-Smith, a self-confessed Bournemouth fanatic, is something of a local hero. Last month he defended his WBO cruiserweight title at the Bournemouth International Centre, a venue perched on the seafront, but if this contest was played out in the ring Swansea would have been put of their misery long before the final whistle.
As it happened, the referee at the Vitality Stadium, Darren England, had no such powers and so Bournemouth eased into the FA Cup fifth round with a bruising and comprehensive knockout of their Championship opponents. Things were ludicrously comfortable for the home side, so much so that Andoni Iraola had the luxury of withdrawing Dominic Solanke, among those on the scoresheet, at the interval. Solanke capped the scoring after strikes by Lloyd Kelly, David Brooks, Alex Scott and Luis Sinisterra.
By the time Sinisterra cut inside on to his right foot and steered a shot into the far corner for Bournemouth’s third goal inside the opening 14 minutes, Swansea’s best-laid plans were in tatters and instead a nightmarish worst-case scenario unravelled, a matter of damage limitation and playing for pride. Andrew Fisher, the Swansea goalkeeper, shook his head in disbelief as Sinisterra, all smiles, wheeled away in celebration. Scott, a £25m arrival from Bristol City at the start of the season, pinched the ball from under the nose of Swansea’s Arsenal loanee Charlie Patino and fed Sinisterra, who did the rest. “If Swansea score, we’re on the pitch,” sang their supporters, who had resorted to gallows humour.
There were, naturally, more eyes on this tie than there typically would have been given it was picked as the Cup’s fourth-round curtain raiser and televised on S4C, the Welsh language TV channel. Bournemouth seemed to savour the spotlight, Swansea not so much, and the visitors’ defending was so shambolic that it almost seemed wrong that it was being beamed to the masses before the watershed.
David Moyes was among those in attendance, the West Ham manager presumably doing his homework before his side host Bournemouth next Thursday. Moyes has been a long-term admirer of Solanke – West Ham had an inquiry knocked back last summer – but it was the striker’s supporting cast who ran riot before Solanke made it 5-0 on 44 minutes. At that point many of the visiting supporters headed for the exits and back to south Wales.
Bournemouth seized the lead on seven minutes through defender Kelly, another player signed from Bristol City, who swept in a free-kick from Brooks after Nathan Wood tripped Sinisterra. Kelly was totally unchallenged on the edge of the six-yard box, leading Bashir Humphreys, the Swansea centre-back on loan from Chelsea, to ask questions of the nonexistent marking.
Three minutes later Scott burst into the box unmarked to double Bournemouth’s advantage, converting a cutback by Brooks after the Wales winger and captain for the night breezed past Humphreys. It was borderline embarrassing how easily Bournemouth cut Swansea open and the goals were excruciating from Swansea’s perspective.
The fourth stemmed from Solanke slipping Brooks through one-on-one with Fisher on halfway and Solanke added the fifth when he side-footed in Sinisterra’s low cross from the left. Luke Williams, the Swansea head coach, stood ashen-faced, arms folded. Swansea hit a post through Kyle Naughton’s long-distance effort, after which Mark Travers, one of five Bournemouth changes, repelled Wood’s stabbed rebound, but this was anything but a contest from the moment Kelly struck.
Not so long ago Yannick Bolasie was part of a Sporting side that demolished PSV Eindhoven in the Europa League so one can only wonder what was going through his head when he stepped off the bench on 57 minutes and into this wreckage in filthy conditions. Bolasie replaced Patino, who has failed to make a discernible impact since arriving to much excitement last summer. If anything was indicative of a disjointed Swansea performance, it was the sight of Jay Fulton, Joe Allen and Harrison Ashby all looking to each other to seize a loose ball, only for the Bournemouth substitute Milos Kerkez to steal possession instead.
Swansea at least stemmed the bleeding in the second half but things do not get any easier for Williams, whose only victory since succeeding Michael Duff came against Morecambe in this competition. They resume their disappointing league campaign at runaway leaders, Leicester, on Tuesday.