Brett fires Cherries to the Summit!
12th February 2013, 7.45pm
The meteoric rise under Eddie Howe reached the absolute pinnacle tonight as two Pitman goals fired Bournemouth to the top of League One.
Third bottom when the prodigal son manager returned to Dean Court - the epic run of results continued with a fifth win in a row tonight and finally the top spot was achieved.
It was fitting as well that the talisman of Eddies previous successes at the club, Brett Pitman, scored the two goals that got us into the leagues driving seat. It wasn't a vintage performance by any means but away from home, oop North, on the archetypal bitter Northern night has often been an Achilles heel of previous Bournemouth sides. Not this team though who ground out a vital, vital result.
Eddie made one enforced change, Marc Pugh had not made the trip suffering from flu so Richard Hughes stepped into the midfield with Grabban and Mcquoid moving wide in a 4-5-1/4-3-3 (depending whether we had the ball or not).
The game started with an early scare, Jalal diving full length to make a brilliant save from Murphys curling drive in the first minute. It set the tone for a frenetic opening spell with both sides playing excellent football. Bournemouth hit back with Ritchie impressive on the left but Crewe dealt well with a string of crosses into the box. One in particular when Pitman's shot was brilliantly blocked by the impressive centre half Dugdale.
Both sides looked dangerous with whipped set piece deliveries and Seaborne and Dugdale headed over at either end. Bournemouth were not as fluent as in recent weeks the formation seeing them with plenty of possession but little width. Eddie cleverly rotated his three front men continually but we only looked good till the final third, then seemed to run out of a ball out wide. Our best chances came from the edge of the box with Arter's wicked deflected drive landing on the roof of the net to Phillip's relief as he stood watching. The Crewe keeper was more involved in the next chance when Hughes pile-driver nearly cut him in half - one foot either side would have given Cherries the lead.
At the other end Leitch-Smith fired inches past the post as Crewe had a little purple patch at the climax of the half.
HT Crewe 0 Bournemouth 0
The first half had been interesting chess like rather than explosive but the second half lived up to pre-match billing. Eddie took off the ineffective Mcquoid at half time and played Fogden on the right with Pitman on the left and the extra 'proper' midfielder made us look more balanced. Crewe though had wisened up to the fact that Ritchie and Pitman are no Stuart Pearces and attacked at will down that side and came more into the game.
The game was resembling an amateur basketball match with both teams taking it in turn to attack with no end product. Bournemouth survived a scare though when Murphy's 25 yard free kick rattled the underside of the cross-bar and was cleared and then Leitch-Smith's drive was brilliantly finger- tipped wide by the impressive Jalal.
It was beginning to look like a difficult night at this stage with Bournemouth's pretty football breaking down in the final third and Crewe edging closer and closer to scoring. Fate was about to play it's first hand though. Ritchie on the overlap had been a thorn in the home side all game and when he broke into the box and spun into a home defender on a bouncing ball he went down in what seemed like a routine mutual clash of bodies. No players or even the massed Bournemouth fans appealed but ref Clark saw it different and pointed to the spot.
Having bemoaned the two penalties his side conceded at Bournemouth, Crewe boss Davis was clearly fuming to concede one that was even less obvious than the previous duo. Throwing his notes on the floor and berating the fourth official didn't help his blood pressure or the end result as PITMAN fired in off Phillip's hand.
Crewe hit back quickly and Murphy again fired a long free kick from the wing that evaded everyone but came back off the foot of the post. You know that saying about the luck of teams at the top! Bournemouth were playing increasingly on the break now but from one of these Grabban's header from Ritchie's cross was well tipped over by Phillips.
With the away fans celebrating a top of the league position it was soon snatched back from us. Leitch-Smith turned well out wide and crossed for Pogba to thump a towering header past Jalal and it seemed as if the game was heading for a draw. Eddie put Macdonald on for O'Kane as a last throw of the dice but with Hughes sitting very deep we had one eye also on the point.
As ever with this side though, the wealth of goals that sit within so many of the players won the day. Cook stayed forwards from a rare second half corner and found himself wide right on a bouncing ball. He fired a speculative volleyed cross that found PITMAN entering the left side of the penalty area. Ever the expert in the spectacular Brett opted to hit the ball first time on the volley and it took a wicked deflection off Mellor's calf which spun it beautifully beyond Phillips and into the corner. Finally......... we were........ top of the league....... all we had to do was run the ball continually into the corner flag.......... and we duly did.
FT Crewe 1 Bournemouth 2
Jalal 8 -Two brilliant saves and safe handling.
Francis 7 - Bombed forwards and defended well
Cook 9 - Outstanding defensive performance in air and on ground.
Seaborne 8 - Great partnership with Cook and very resolute.
Ritchie 7 - Beaten over his head a few times but great in attack.
Hughes 7 - A master class in 'seen it all before'. Read game well.
Arter 7 - Odd errant pass but his usual all action creative self
O'Kane 6 - Suffering a dip and was rarely involved.
Mcquoid 5 - Seems lost position wise and picked options poorly.
Grabban 7 - Ran his socks off working mainly as sole striker
Pitman 7 - Not an epic performance again but two calm finishes.
The sheer joy from the players at the second goal and the final whistle showed team spirit beyond the norm and the defensive play was superbly organised. Going forward we are only effective with width and this formation doesn't lend itself to it but with Pugh absent, Ritchie having to fill in at left back and Fraser not 100% fit Eddie had no options. Hughes was a great screen if not as mobile as old and the others were just dogged in pursuit. The main difference is in Grabban and Pitman we have people that can do for us what other teams have done against us over the years...... score when not creating hat-fulls of chances.
With Elphick hopefully back soon we can release Ritchie forwards and we have seen in his two and a bit games how good he is going to be with reduced defensive duties. With Macdonald knocking on the door and O'Kane dipping there might be further changes on the horizon. Whatever, good to learn while winning - the best sides do. Just being able to sing 'we are top of the league' made it all worthwhile and credit to everyone involved for the meteoric rise of all meteoric rises in our history.
Report by Neil Dawson