An error-strewn performance saw AFC Bournemouth get soundly beaten 3-1 against Burnley.
The Cherries initially took a lead through an Ashley Barnes own goal, after another fast start.
Burnley then turned the game around in a two-minute spell.
First Chris Wood capitalised on a howler from the flailing Asmir Begovic, then Ashley Westwood accepted Chris Mepham’s gift to put Burnley ahead.
Bournemouth looked shell-shocked and never really came close to any kind of response. A further error from Begovic saw Barnes atone for his earlier mistake and make the points safe.
The result means the Cherries’ season is rapidly petering out with five matches remaining. It leaves the Cherries in 13th. The Clarets, however, will be jubilant after a result that sees them go eight points clear of the relegation spots in 14th.
Individual errors have been Bournemouth’s undoing far too often this season, and this match typified that. Manager Eddie Howe will have to re-assess significantly come the off-season.
The Cherries came into this on the back of a sorry run of one win in eight. Their opponents, however, were fresh off a 2-0 blanking of Wolves and looked to secure survival in the Premier League. The stakes, then, were high.
Bournemouth have historically been poor against the Clarets, only winning two of their last 10 against the Lancashire side. But considering both of those have come in the last two seasons, and their positive home record, there were a few things in the Cherries’ favour.
And they could not have hoped for a better start. Five minutes in, after a set piece given for handball, the hosts took the lead. It was Ryan Fraser’s delivery that caused havoc in the Burnley area, and the ball was knocked on towards Nathan Ake. Burnley striker Barnes, back defending, then headed it neatly past his own keeper.
It was another fast start from Bournemouth to put alongside so many other early goals this season. They could have feasibly been 3-0 up in the first fifteen minutes.
Immediately after the goal, Fraser had a presentable shooting opportunity on the edge of the box. It was played in to the Scotsman by Josh King, and it sat up well too. The shot, though, was easily caught by a diving Heaton.
Ten minutes later, David Brooks had an even easier chance. It was again King with a smart pass behind the lines, and the Welshman had time and space to place his shot. All that was for nothing, however, as it was far too close to Heaton who saved.
Burnley made Brooks regret that miss two minutes later when they equalised. It was a corner, the Clarets’ stock and trade, from which Wood tapped in. But it really should have been cleared away by Cherries keeper Begovic, considering how close the delivery was to the goal.
The flailing Bosnian completely missed it, however, and Wood had the easiest job in the world at the far post. Burnley would turn it around fully just two minutes later.
Another defensive mistake led to Burnley going ahead. This time the culprit was Chris Mepham. A cross from Dwight McNeil from the left came to the centre-back, whose clearance was poor.
It set up Westwood perfectly, and the midfielder made no mistake finishing past Begovic. From 1-0 to 2-1 in the space of two minutes, it was fair to say Bournemouth were caught cold.
How Bournemouth will regret not pressing home that initial advantage. The Cherries were set up to play fast on the counter against the stocky Burnley defence.
Burnley, on the other hand, tried to cross to their tall strikers from the wings. McNeil, on the left flank, was particularly bright and gave marker Nathaniel Clyne a torrid time.
A counter-attacking opportunity almost saw the Cherries equalise after 24 minutes. King was again involved, playing in Brooks on the right. The Welshman stood the ball up brilliantly for Callum Wilson, but the striker’s header agonisingly flashed above the bar.
The rest of the half saw numerous bookings, including one for Clyne after a tussle with McNeil on the half hour mark. The subsequent freekick saw Begovic alert at his near post to save well. Wood’s subsequent header landed on the roof of the net.
The half ended with Bournemouth ruing another sorry defensive performance. Another error early in the second half would see the Cherries further behind.
It was down the left again for Burnley. Clyne was off at halftime, but his replacement on the right, Adam Smith, fared no better against McNeil and left-back Charlie Taylor.
Taylor got the better of his marker and played a low cross. Again, it should have been easy for Begovic to collect. But under pressure from Wood, the Bosnian lay sprawled on the grass and fumbled. Wood took advantage and strike partner Barnes scored. This time it was at the right end.
Bournemouth protested that the ball had gone out of play before the cross, but replays showed the ball stayed in. Regardless, it was yet another horror show at the back for the Cherries.
A tactical re-jig from Eddie Howe saw striker Dominic Solanke enter the fray for midfielder Dan Gosling. This meant there was significant space in midfield, a fact Wood almost exploited minutes later. Another McNeil cross on the left, with the winger in acres of space, really should have been finished off by the tall striker.
The other central midfielder Jefferson Lerma too went off for winger Stanislas, which left Bournemouth in a highly attacking 4-1-3-2 formation. The gaps in midfield meant a single pass was enough for Burnley to play in their strikers, which happened numerous times throughout the half.
The home crowd was increasingly getting agitated at Burnley’s apparent time-wasting in the second half. Sean Dyche only made his first change in the 81st minute and saw fit to let his Burnley side sit deep after the third goal.
Bournemouth huffed and puffed, but the match petered out to jubilant cheers from the Burnley away end. The result leaves them in a great position to survive and means they sit eight points ahead of the drop zone.
The Cherries dropped a position in the league table to 13th after another sorry performance.
What will concern Eddie Howe more than the errors was the toothlessness the Cherries showed in front of goal, so different from their usual style. After another season of stability, this summer may finally see a season of upheaval in Dorset.
For now, the Cherries are safe – but is that all they need to aim for?
Written by Akshay Kulkarni (@ImpatientPedant)