Play-off hopes hit by de­feat

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Ian Wadley To com­ment on this match go to http://boards.footy­

DE­FI­ANT Bournemouth de­fender Si­mon Fran­cis be­lieves the Cher­ries can still re­alise their play-off dream as he tar­gets a hat-trick of vic­to­ries to com­plete a fairy­tale rise.

Ed­die Howe’s late-sea­son Cham­pi­onship charg­ers suf­fered a po­ten­tially sig­nif­i­cant set­back as they were de­feated by ten­man Sh­effield Wed­nes­day at Dean Court on Fri­day.

At­dhe Nuhiu stunned a bumper home crowd by fir­ing the vis­i­tors in front and de­spite Marc Pugh’s equaliser, Sam Hutchin­son en­sured the vis­i­tors led at the in­ter­val.

Wed­nes­day keeper Chris Kirk­land pro­duced a se­ries of fine saves be­fore Yann Ker­mor­gant lev­elled mat­ters again.

Hutchin­son saw red for a sec­ond book­able of­fence but late counter-at­tack goals from Leon Best and Chris Maguire sealed the Owls’ vic­tory and halted Bournemouth’s six-match un­beaten run.

How­ever, af­ter ri­vals Read­ing and Brighton also failed to win on Fri­day, right-back Fran­cis said he re­mained adamant that Bournemouth were still firmly in the play-off pic­ture.

The Cher­ries, who have won many ad­mir­ers for their at­trac­tive brand of foot­ball this sea­son, visit fel­low con­tenders Ip­swich at Port­man Road to­mor­row.

Fran­cis said: “There is no way we are tak­ing our foot off the gas with nine points to play for and sixth place and a play-off spot.

“People will prob­a­bly look at our past two games – a draw at Yeovil and a loss against Sh­effield Wed­nes­day – and they might think that we maybe haven't got the hunger for it in the end, but I don’t think so.

“We have still got the qual­ity and we want to try to win the last three matches. If we were to get nine points, I think we would prob­a­bly find our­selves un­lucky not to be in the play-offs be­cause I don't think the other teams are guar­an­teed to win their games.”

Wed­nes­day con­tin­ued their im­prove­ment un­der boss Stu­art Gray and he praised his play­ers.

He said: “I thought we de­served it.When we went down to ten men, we showed un­be­liev­able char­ac­ter.

“To win the game 4-2, I give the play­ers plenty of credit for their char­ac­ter, ef­fort, de­sire and enthusiasm.

“We re­sponded well to the send­ing off.We had to dig in for 10 min­utes but ev­ery time they put the ball in the box, Chris Kirk­land came for it and Miguel Llera and Oguchi Onyewu headed it clear.”

There were de­cent op­por­tu­ni­ties for both teams in a lively open­ing as Kieran Lee rat­tled a low 20-yarder just wide for the vis­i­tors be­fore Owls keeper Kirk­land bril­liantly de­nied Lewis Grab­ban.

Wed­nes­day front­man Nuhiu struck first when he seized on a loose ball be­fore thump­ing a su­perb drive past Lee Camp.

Pugh was per­fectly placed to head the Cher­ries level on 31 min­utes as he prof­ited from Grab­ban's storm­ing run and cross.

How­ever, it took the Owls just three min­utes to re­gain the ad­van­tage when Hutchin­son nod­ded home fol­low­ing a long throw.

For­mer Eng­land stopper Kirk­land pro­duced a fine save from Grab­ban be­fore then ex­pertly push­ing clear an Andrew Sur­man curler.

But Kirk­land was pow­er­less to pre­vent Bournemouth scor­ing again when Ian Harte’s dan­ger­ous cor­ner found the in­flu­en­tial Ker­mor­gant, who made no mis­take from eight yards.

Af­ter Hutchin­son's send­ing off, Wed­nes­day en­joyed a lucky es­cape when Ker­mor­gant's won­der­ful free-kick crashed back off the wood­work.

But as the Cher­ries pressed for a win­ner, they were caught on the break, with Wed­nes­day sub­sti­tute Best beat­ing Camp low at his near post be­fore Best turn­ing provider for Maguire to seal the win with a de­light­ful close-range fin­ish.

OWLS ABOUT THAT: At­dhe Nuhiu scores Wed­nes­day’s first goal

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Im­ages

ON THE UP: Chris Maguire, left, cel­e­brates with Kieran Lee af­ter scor­ing their fourth

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