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Cherries: Howe's men go fifth after Crewe win (with video)
BRETT Pitman's hat-trick in this 3-1 win finished off a productive week for Cherries.
Six points from six planted Eddie Howe's side firmly in the League One play-off picture after the defeat against Walsall had left some questioning whether that was the best Cherries could hope for. Not on this form.
A slight wobble 15 minutes from time, when Ryan Colclough made it 2-1, was also little to worry about as Pitman's two penalties, one in each half, and goal on 67 minutes was more than enough to see off Crewe.
Howe made two changes from the side that beat Hartlepool on Tuesday night. Charlie Daniels missed out with a foot injury, with Steve Cook coming into central defence and Dan Seaborne switching to left-back.
Pitman returned to the starting line-up in place of Richard Hughes as Howe opted for a 4-4-2 set-up with Cherries back in home soil.
The home side started brightly, with Harry Arter blazing over when well placed inside the 18-yard box following Pitman's corner.
And it was the Channel Islander who put Cherries in front from the spot inside the opening 10 minutes after Marc Pugh's clever turn had drawn a foul from Adam Dugdale.
Just two minutes later, Cherries should arguably have had another penalty after Pugh went to ground again, this time under a challenge from Luke Murphy. Referee Iain Williamson waved it away.
Cherries continued to push, with Josh McQuoid's header going close thanks to Simon Francis's cross from the right - so nearly yet another assist for the right-back.
Cherries had further chances, too, Pitman narrowly missing the target with a header on 32 minutes after some intricate passing and movement between Lewis Grabban and Francis and a dipping cross from McQuoid.
On the stroke of half-time, Grabban could have made it 2-0. The striker latched on to Eunan O'Kane's precise through ball but, having rounded Crewe keeper Steve Phillips, placed his left-foot strike on the angle into the side netting.
McQuoid continued to impress after the break, but Pitman was unable steer his shot on target having been expertly played in by the midfielder.
At the other end, Max Clayton fired over the bar. Crewe were boasting plenty of the ball, but seemed unable to convert their possession into goal scoring opportunities.
Pitman climbed magnificently to get on the end of McQuoid's cross just after the hour but could only head directly into the hands of Phillips.
The absence of Daniels played into McQuoid's hands, with the majority of Cherries' best attacks coming from the right. He gave former Wessex League defender Jon Guthrie, on his full debut, a torrid time in the second half.
Still Cherries pushed and hurried. The crowd noise slowly built as they sensed the game was beginning to open up in favour of the hosts.
Phillips saved well at the near post from Grabban, but his parry from Arter's shot moments later fell to McQuoid, who crossed for Pitman to tap in his second of the afternoon.
It should have been 3-0 on 73 minutes when Phillips again parried, this time directly on to Arter's head from Francis's cross. Arter, though, almost surprised, could only nod the ball over the bar.
There was a sting in the tail, however. Mathias Pogba stormed into the box from the left channel unchallenged and substitute Colclough simply made sure his shot on target found the back of the net. 2-1 and game on.
Not for long, though.
Williamson pointed to the spot for a second time nine minutes from time after Abdul Osman had felled substitute Wes Fogden. Pitman stepped up and drilled the penalty right down the middle. Game on to game over in minutes.
Pitman's last hat-trick had been for Cherries against Peterborough in his final game before moving to Bristol City and he was replaced here by Richard Hughes just after his third. Howe would have wanted him to receive the ovation.
The result moved Cherries into fifth place in League One. They also became the division's highest scorers, bringing up their 50. Those are telling statistics.
Cherries: (4-4-2) Jalal; Francis, Cook, Elphick, Seaborne; McQuoid (Fogden, 80), Arter, O'Kane, Pugh; Grabban (Tubbs, 88), Pitman (Hughes, 83).
Unused subs: McDermott, Partington, Fletcher, Allsop.
Booked: Arter, Pugh.
Crewe: (4-4-2) Phillips; Mellor, Davis, Dugdale, Guthrie; Murphy, Osman, Inman (Colclough, 63), Moore; Pogba, Clayton (Leitch-Smith, 63).
Unused subs: Ellis, Turton, Ray, West, Garratt.
Referee: Iain Williamson (Thatcham).
Attendance: 8,628 (280 away supporters).