COOL CHER­RIES ARE GOAL KINGS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Sam El­liott

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.”

PIC­TURES: Ac­tion Images

PUMPED UP: Cal­lum Wil­son cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing the clincher

THAT’S TWO: Wil­son scores to seal Bournemouth’s win

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