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AFC Bournemouth: Blues have a score to settle at Dean Court
EVEN the most ardent of fans would have struggled to see it coming but toppling would-be champions Birmingham ultimately saved Cherries’ bacon back in 1995.
On their last trip to Dean Court, Blues were banished back to the Midlands with nothing to show for their efforts as goals from Steve Jones and Scott Mean boosted Cherries’ unlikely survival bid.
Mel Machin’s men were anchored to the foot of Division Two after losing their opening seven matches and with just nine points amassed by Christmas the threat of relegation loomed large.
However, four wins in eight after the turn of the year set up Cherries’ Great Escape before bashing Barry Fry’s boys 2-1 to clamber out of the drop zone for the first time that season.
Birmingham recovered from their wobble to win the title while the three points proved vital for Cherries who sat just one place and two points above the trapdoor come the end of the season.
Since that fateful night both teams have taken very different paths. Cherries largely floated round the bottom two tiers of the Football League while Birmingham enjoyed a seven-year stint in the top flight which also saw them capture the League Cup in 2011.
But despite their trophy triumph, the season turned sour for Blues who were bounced back out of the Premier League with a series of financial worries casting a cloud over the club.
Their woes have continued back in the second tier with Lee Clark’s men leapfrogged by a resurgent Cherries outfit after last Saturday’s 2-1 win at Reading.
But over the past few weeks, City have battled to turn their fortunes round with a five-match unbeaten run including victories over Huddersfield (3-1) and Barnsley (3-0) along with a 1-1 draw against promotion candidates Blackpool.
The recent resurgence has happened in spite of seeing their defence decimated by injuries to Mitch Hancox, David Murphy, Neal Eardley and Jonathan Spector with youngsters Will Packwood and Amari’i Bell recalled from loan spells at Bristol Rovers and Nuneaton Town respectively.
Cherries have previously met Blues on 12 occasions and history dictates there should be a winner with no draws previously played out on Dorset soil.
Birmingham’s top scorer Jesse Lingard, on loan from Manchester United, has found the net six times in the Championship.
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