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AFC Bournemouth: Howe's men beaten by Birmingham (WITH VIDEO)
CHERRIES’ barren home form continued this afternoon as Birmingham City ran out 2-0 winners at Dean Court.
Eddie Howe’s men have not registered a victory on home soil since the 5-2 thumping of Millwall back in October and failed to build on last weekend’s superb away win at Reading.
Andrew Shinnie’s strike after just three minutes rocked Cherries early on and, despite bossing possession and creating several meaningful chances, Nikola Zigic’s 34th-minute goal was enough to earn Lee Clark’s men a fortuitous three points.
Boss Howe stuck with the same 11 that had started the morale-boosting 2-1 win at the Madejski Stadium a week ago, with marquee signing Tokelo Rantie forced to settle for a place among the substitutes.
But Cherries got off to the worst possible start when Shinnie blasted home from close range with the crowd still taking their seats, his shot from Oliver Lee’s cross slamming into the roof of the net to leave Lee Camp with no chance.
In a frenetic opening, Marc Pugh’s shot from inside the box was easily saved by Blues keeper Darren Randolph, while Harry Arter blazed over when well-placed after 11 minutes.
A well-struck effort from Arter five minutes later was blocked as Cherries enjoyed a dominant spell of possession.
Five corners in quick succession told the story of Cherries’ dominance. Lewis Grabban’s well-directed header on 22 minutes, following a beautiful cross from Simon Francis, was clawed away by Randolph.
Moments later the visitors were denied what looked to be a stonewall penalty after Francis appeared to handle Shinnie’s cross from the left, but referee Michael Naylor waved away the Blues’ desperate pleas.
Randolph was on hand to tip Grabban’s cross away from Pugh on the half-hour, while Francis’s free kick was blocked by Nikola Zigic.
And Cherries were made to pay for failing to make their dominance count, as well as for a degree of naivety on the ball, when Zigic burst clear and slotted under Camp to make it 2-0 on 34 minutes. The big Serb had been played in by Jesse Lingard, who robbed Andrew Surman of possession. It was far too simple and Howe would have been seething.
On 39 minutes, Shinnie looked to double his own tally and make it 3-0 as he shaped to shoot inside the Cherries box, but the hosts had Steve Cook to thank for a last-ditch challenge on the impressive Scotsman.
At the other end, Paul Robinson’s block denied Ritchie. Seconds later, Grabban’s neat shot with the outside of his right foot narrowly crept past the post after the striker had been expertly played in by Arter.
Ritchie was again in the thick of the action in first-half stoppage time, but the little winger drove straight at Randolph following neat link-up play with Pugh. There was still time for O’Kane to fire over and Tommy Elphick to miss the target with a header from yet another Ritchie corner.
At the break, it was hard to believe quite how Howe’s men were 2-0 down and yet to register a goal of their own.
Howe brought on Ryan Fraser in place of Surman at half-time and Cherries continued to boss possession without creating too much in the way of clear-cut chances. Ritchie’s weak drive straight at Randolph was the only real effort of the first eight minutes of the second period.
Randoph saved well from Pugh on 55 minutes, the keeper equal to the Lancastrian’s fierce right-foot drive from close range, before pushing Ritchie’s well-struck free kick away moments later.
Grabban’s 63rd-minute glancing header flashed narrowly over Randolph’s crossbar, while the Blues stopper gathered Fraser’s snapshot five minutes later.
After Howe had introduced final throw of the dice Brett Pitman 11 minutes from time, Grabban dragged a left-foot shot well wide, while Cook’s effort from distance was never going to trouble Randolph.
Cherries: (4-5-1) Camp; Francis, Elphick, Cook, Daniels (Pitman, 79); Ritchie, Arter, O'Kane, Surman (Fraser, h-t), Pugh (Rantie, 66); Grabban.
Unused subs: Harte, MacDonald, Yennaris, Flahavan (g/k).
Blues: (4-2-3-1) Randolph; Caddis, Burn, Bartley, Robinson; Adeyemi, Lee; Burke (McLean, 61), Lingard (Reilly, 75), Shinnie; Zigic.
Unused subs: Mullins, Brown, Bell, Gray, Doyle (g/k).
Booked: Caddis, Bartley, Burke, Adeyemi, Shinnie.
Referee: Michael Naylor (South Yorks).
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