Fletcher confirms Cherries' climb

AFC Bournemouth 5 Lincoln City 2
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The Independent Football

Watching the television pictures from Cardiff at his adopted home in Atlanta, Ted McDougall must have thought the good old days had come back. Sean O'Driscoll's vibrant young Bournemouth team, relegated at the end of last season, swept back into the Second Division yesterday with the kind of goalscoring flourish that hallmarked Super Mac's days at Dean Court.

The latter-day Cherries did not quite get half-way to the 11-goal tally John Bond's 1970s side achieved against Margate in the FA Cup, nine of them courtesy of McDougall. In putting five past the Third Division's meanest defence, though, they rattled up the highest ever score at the Millennium Stadium - the highest by a football team, that is (and the kind of total the Welsh rugby XV have struggled to match at times).

It was Carl Fletcher, the Bournemouth captain, who donned the Super Mac mantle, the ubiquitous central defender heading the crucial goal that put his team 2-1 ahead in first-half injury time and adding the fifth that finally finished Lincoln's challenge.

Fletcher was outstanding yesterday and O'Driscoll, who nurtured the 23-year-old through from the youth ranks at Dean Court, has been outstanding all season. The former Bournemouth midfielder survived a six-match ultimatum in September and has worked wonders without a transfer budget. "We haven't got the finances to go out and make changes," the manager said, when asked whether his young charges would get their chance in the Second Division next season.

Not that any changes appear to be needed. O'Driscoll's side were polished all round yesterday. They took the lead with a stunner of a goal in the 29th minute, Fletcher launching the ball from deep and Marcus Browning heading on for Steve Fletcher (no relation) to beat Alan Marriott with a rasping right-foot shot on the turn. It was a first-class finish by the veteran striker and Bournemouth further distinguished themselves by overcoming the setback they suffered soon afterwards.

Lincoln were level six minutes later, the 6ft 7in Ben Futcher heading in Stuart Bimson's right-wing corner. It was an 11th goal of the season for the central defender. Carl Fletcher has been less lethal in front of goal for Bournemouth but has still been a revelation this season as a midfielder pressed into central defensive service. He could not have burst into the Lincoln box with better timing yesterday, stealing behind the opposition defence in first-half injury-time to meet Gareth O'Connor's cross from the left with a glancing goalscoring header.

It was a blow from which Lincoln never recovered. They were 4-1 down by the hour mark, having been hit on the break twice in the space of four minutes. In the 56th minute, Wade Elliott crossed from the right and Stephen Purches applied a first-time finish at the near post. Then O'Connor dashed up the left flank and buried a fine left-footed drive.

Mark Bailey headed Lincoln's second goal with 15 minutes remaining, but the revival was fleeting for Keith Alexander's side. Within two minutes, Carl Fletcher had scored his second, the Cherries' Captain Marvel meeting an O'Connor free-kick with an emphatic header.

AFC Bournemouth 5
S Fletcher 29, C Fletcher 45, 77, Purches 56, O'Connor 60

Lincoln City 2
Futcher 35, Bailey 75

Half-time: 2-1 Attendance: 32,148

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