AFC Bournemouth vs Birmingham City: Cherries show character to overturn two-goal deficit and regain top spot

AFC Bournemouth 4 Birmingham City 2: Bournemouth settle for scoring at least four for the eighth time this season

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The Independent Football

Pretty football will only get you so far, but today Bournemouth showed they have character too.

Two-nil down after 21 jittery minutes, they dragged themselves level before half-time and might, by the end, almost have equalled the eight they scored against Birmingham at St Andrew’s in October.

Instead they settled for scoring at least four for the eighth time this season and finishing the Easter fixtures on top of the Championship.

“It was a tough game for us,” said Eddie Howe, the Bournemouth manager. “It is the first time we have fallen behind at home and you could have accused the players of going under but thankfully we withstood that pressure and the crowd stayed with us. That mental strength was key because we know we’ve got goals in the team and  we showed how potent we can be.”

He admitted that promotion nerves had been a factor. “When you consider what’s at stake, I’d be amazed if there wasn’t nerves at all the clubs. We got rid of those nerves when we concentrated on the football and hopefully this experience can be a  good thing and a learning tool for us.”

Both teams looked as if they could score every time they went forward. Bournemouth showed first, a flurry of early corners producing a header from Andrew Surman that was blocked and a shot over the crossbar by Tommy Elphick before Callum Wilson got to Ryan Fraser’s low  cross ahead of his marker, Michael Morrison, but slid the shot wide.

At that point the home fans raised the subject of their 8-0 win, but their timing was poor as Blues almost immediately went 2-0 ahead. Clayton Donaldson charged on to David Shinnie’s through pass to chip the ball over Artur Boruc and into the empty net, then David Cotterill cut in from the right to arrow a low shot just inside the far post.

It could have been 3-0 as home defender Steve Cook presented Donaldson with a chance but redeemed himself with a last-ditch clearance. Bournemouth were back in the game six minutes before the interval, Cook forcing home Matt Ritchie’s inswinging corner from the right. And in first-half injury time, Yann Kermorgant’s turn and inch-perfect pass sent Wilson through to round Darren Randolph and score.

Two minutes into the second half, Kermorgant put Wilson through again, and when Paul Robinson brought him down, Kermorgant converted the penalty. Then, in the 74th minute,  a series of near misses ended when Charlie Daniels’ mis-hit effort bounced in to make it 4-2.

Two minutes later Robinson was sent off for bringing down Wilson when he was through on goal and Bournemouth revelled in the extra space. Harry Arter smacked the post from 20 yards and Randolph somehow turned a point-blank header from Kenwyne Jones over the bar.

AFC Bournemouth (4-4-1-1): Boruc; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels; Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Fraser (Smith, 56); Kermorgant (Pitman, 87); Wilson (Jones, 89). Substitutes not used Camp (gk), Stanislas, Gosling, Ward.

Birmingham City (4-4-1-1): Randolph; Caddis, Morrison, Robinson, Grounds; Cotterill, Davis, Tesche, Dyer (Gray, 69; Shinnie (Thomas, 75); Donaldson (Kiernan, 79). Substitutes not used Doyle (gk), Novak, Zigic, Brown.

Referee A Woolmer (Northamptonshire).