“We had to find something, have no fear. We did that right from the off in the second half and it vastly improved our performance.”
Those were the words of Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe, following their 4-1 win over Leicester City at the weekend. Things were looking bleak for the Cherries when Jamie Vardy put Leicester ahead after 20 minutes. But Bournemouth, who haven’t had much luck this season, and haven’t been able to find the back of the net, not nearly enough, finally got the rub of the green.
From being six points from safety with nine to play for, victory saw Howe’s side leapfrog Aston Villa in the table and find themselves three points behind West Ham and Watford – who face each other on Friday night. While Bournemouth are still the favourites to join Norwich City in the Championship, according to the latest Premier League relegation odds, goals change games and it was a remarkable comeback from the South Coasters.
Talking to BBC 5 Live after the match, Howe said: “I felt we needed to win today for sure. We will try and win every game. We are still in it and can still survive, It will be very difficult but we’ve shown our supporters we are in there fighting and that’s all we can do.”
The fighting spirit was there at the weekend, and while the Foxes seem to implode in the second half – casting doubts over their bid for a top-four finish – Bournemouth fought tooth and nail to not only restore some pride but give all connected to the club, something to believe in.
Bournemouth first faces Manchester City away in midweek, before entertaining Southampton in the South Coast Derby. While both teams will want to secure bragging rights, the Cherries’ need for points is much greater and dependent on how other results go between now and the end of the season, victory could set up a thrilling final day. They end their season with a trip to Goodison Park, to face an Everton side who have had mixed fortunes since the restart, and are without a win in three games, but like the Saints, have nothing to play for.
The clash between West Ham and Watford at the London Stadium will be crucial in deciding who goes down and who stays in the top flight. A point apiece wouldn’t really help to keep Bournemouth in the fight – with four points separating them from their rivals, and six left to play for. However, it would be good news for the winner, who’d propel up the table, further away from the drop zone and be mathematically safe, while the loser would get sucked into the scrap. Watford have a difficult run of Manchester City at home, before a trip to the Emirates; while West Ham travels to Old Trafford, before hosting Aston Villa – who could also be all but gone by then.
The story of Bournemouth’s surge from the very depths of the Football League’s basement division to the Premier League is one that warms the heart of any neutral, with fans of clubs further down the pyramid believing their team can too achieve the unthinkable. The job that Howe has done from transforming a club that very nearly went bust to securing midtable finishes in the Premier League is remarkable – playing an attractive style of free-flowing football, without that evident lack of quality that the top teams in the division possess. It would be heartbreaking to see the club lose their place in the top flight, and although the fairytale is still alive for the time being, the real question is, but for how much longer?