SIMON: CHERRIES AREN’T SAGGING
Play-off hopes hit by defeat
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
ON THE UP: Chris Maguire, left, celebrates with Kieran Lee after scoring their fourth