COOL CHERRIES ARE GOAL KINGS
ON THE hottest day of the year so far, Bournemouth proved they can keep their title bid cool. Not at their best, but no sweat. Eddie Howe’s side provided crucial answers to any questions regarding their ability to weather this promotion storm.
Goals from strikers Yann Kermorgant and Callum Wilson inside the final 20 minutes passed a big test and created history. Kermorgant’s stunning free-kick, the club’s 105th goal of the season, beat their highest scoring campaigns of 1956-57 and 1928-29.
The front duo, with 32 league goals between them, were top drawer again.
Further history could follow. With a generous run-in, the Premier League story is set to be told. Bournemouth are the club who give every single football fan hope. Remember, they were on the brink of bankruptcy in 2008.
Should they negotiate a trip to Reading on Tuesday, two seemingly straightforward home fixtures against Sheffield Wednesday and Bolton beckon. They then finish with a trip to Charlton on the last day, Saturday, May 2.
“Yes, there’s a little bit of relief in there,” said Howe, the March manager of the month. “It was clear from early on that this wasn’t going to be a game of many chances so we had to be mindful.
“We only had two shots on target which is unusual for us, but Brighton only had one so that’s a compliment to the way we set up. Luck is crucial, of course, but it balances out.
“I don’t accept we’re favourites for promotion. We’re looking for 12 points from our final four games. With the form of the other teams, we can’t look at it any other way.”
But for Brighton boss Chris Hughton, there were more questions than answers. Why was the unfit Leon Best deployed up front on his own at home, and just what is he going to do this summer to address the club’s obvious goalscoring issues?
The AMEX for the past two Aprils has seen promotion spoken of in its corridors, but not this year. What those fans would give to be in a position to contest a play-off semi-final like in 2013 and 2014.
Brighton, in fact, started the better. Inigo Calderon should have scored with a free header before Joao Teixeira danced through in ungainly fashion, restored his composure but then saw his shot deflected over.
The best Bournemouth had to offer a dreadful first half was Matt Ritchie’s deflected drive.
The fact David Stockdale didn’t need to adjust his standing position illustrated the visitors’ low-tempo.
There was some life about the game in the 53rd minute. Calderon did well down the right, Teixeira gambled and Dale Stephens unleashed a cracker that flew just over.
Promotions are often won on big moments and big decisions.
Howe threw Adam Smith into the mix. Within five minutes, the midfielder was scythed down by Lewis Dunk and Frenchman Kermorgant arched his free-kick into the top corner. Magnificent.
When Wilson bullied Brighton’s Greg Halford after teasing the defender with a dropped shoulder or two, he shot low past Stockdale nine minutes from time. Job done.
Hughton said: “I thought we were very good for 70 minutes but without the goals to alleviate the pressure, you are always running a risk.
“In possession we were good but we gave them the opportunities in the latter stages of the game and sometimes you get that break when you are going for promotion.
“I don’t feel we have done enough to be safe this season, we don’t want to rely on the teams below us.We need to score some goals – I am surprised we aren’t.”
PUMPED UP: Callum Wilson celebrates after scoring the clincher
THAT’S TWO: Wilson scores to seal Bournemouth’s win