City travel to Bournemouth on Monday night knowing that victory could be enough to take them to second place in the table, if results elsewhere over the weekend are favourable.
With only a flicker of hope of catching runaway leaders Chelsea, it is imperative for Pep Guardiola that his side continue to pick up crucial victories in order to secure a top four place at the very least.
It’s encouraging, then, that the Blues have not lost to the Cherries in the seven league meetings between the two sides – a record that stretches back to 1 December 1987, where Jimmy Frizzell’s City won 2-0 at Dean Court.
In the Premier League era, to say it has been one sided is somewhat of an understatement. City have recorded 4-0 victories in the last two meetings, having previously swept Bournemouth aside 5-1 thanks to a Raheem Sterling first half hat trick on 17 October 2015.
Prior to that encounter, it had been 16 years since the teams had locked horns. Back then, both sides were scrapping for promotion from the third tier of English football and played out a dour 0-0 draw. The match will always be remembered for two late City red cards as Jamie Pollock and Kevin Horlock received their marching orders, the latter for ‘walking towards the referee in an aggressive manner’.
Earlier that season, Joe Royle’s side picked up their third win of a rollercoaster campaign with a 2-1 triumph over Bournemouth at Maine Road. Danny Allsopp’s first half strike was cancelled out in the opening stages of the second half by Cherries legend Steve Fletcher before Paul Dickov (who else?) bagged the winner for City.
At the time, Bournemouth were managed by former Blues boss Mel Machin – forever remembered for guiding City to a famous 5-1 win over United on 23 September 1989. As fate would have it, the south coast side narrowly missed out on the play-offs on goal difference at the expense of Wigan Athletic, who City beat to set up the unforgettable encounter with Gillingham.
The Cherries were in pole position going into the final day but could only manage a 0-0 draw with Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground, while Wigan beat Chesterfield 3-1 in the club’s last orthodox league game at Springfield Park.
Two seasons later, as City succumbed to a disappointing relegation from the Premiership, Bournemouth were once again vying for promotion from Division Two. Sean O’Driscoll was in charge at Dean Court and had an 18-year-old Jermain Defoe spearheading his attack. The on-loan West Ham striker bagged 18 goals for the Cherries, but it wasn’t enough as Bournemouth agonisingly missed out of the play-offs – again to Wigan, for the second time in three seasons.
O’Driscoll’s side were minutes away from clinching the final play-off spot, but a late Nicky Forster goal for Reading (already guaranteed a play-off berth) at the Madejski Stadium sealed a thrilling 3-3 draw and ensured Wigan finished sixth, despite being held to a 0-0 draw at home to Bristol City.
Since then, Bournemouth have slipped into the fourth tier of English football on two occasions and suffered financial turmoil. But three promotions in six years saw the Cherries rise into English football’s elite and, under Eddie Howe, are playing some of the most attractive, attacking football in the country.
Written by Chris Wildgoose
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