Survival in sight as Bournemouth record first win over Saints in 58 years
Bournemouth edged closer to safety with a superb performance against Southampton in the South Coast derby. The 2-0 victory was the first win in five matches for Eddie Howe's team and the first for the Cherries over Saints in 58 years.
Although Charlie Austin was allowed an early chance that he should really have buried, the visitors were otherwise stifled by an excellent defensive performance and the threat of Matt Ritchie. The effervescent winger has been quieter than usual in recent weeks, but he set Dean Court alight with his dashing runs and two excellent free kicks that created goals for Steve Cook and Benik Afobe.
Saints rallied after Cook's opening header but got little out of the former Brighton & Hove Albion player and his central defensive partner Simon Francis, as the Dorset side kept clean sheets for consecutive games for the first time this season. That defensive showing and Afobe's ability to find the net again after four games without a goal will have cheered Howe, as his team head into two more eminently winnable games.
If Bournemouth can win away to Newcastle on Saturday and then home to Swansea a week later, the finish line and survival are in sight for the Premier League debutantes.
Player ratings (1-10; 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating):
GK Artur Boruc, 7 -- Not overly troubled, but quickly off his line to beat Shane Long to a dangerous-looking ball on 23 minutes that could have put the visitors back in the game.
DF Adam Smith, 7 -- Good link-up play with Ritchie and got forward regularly.
DF Simon Francis, 8 -- Marshalled Sadio Mane capably throughout. Vital clearance off the line with five minutes to go that might have provided Saints with a chance to get back into the game.
DF Steve Cook, 8 -- Cook's marking has not always been great, but he was on excellent form in this game in both defence and attack. He produced a head back across the penalty area that could have forced an early breakthrough before finishing capably himself on 31 minutes.
DF Charlie Daniels, 7 -- Not as many surging runs from left-back as usual, but as a result, rarely caught out of position.
MF Matt Ritchie, 8 -- From the opening whistle, the Scottish international came at Saints from every direction. A threat all over the pitch, while both goals came from excellent Ritchie free kicks that Saints failed to deal with. Man of the match.
MF Andrew Surman, 6 -- As Howe switched from from 4-1-4-1 to 4-4-2, Surman was moved from his usual sweeper's position to central midfield. Played a more defensive role than his partner Harry Arter, and a curious choice for sponsor's man of the match.
MF Harry Arter, 6 -- Good surging run before half-time, but less influential in the second half, when he took a knock and was substituted on 66 minutes.
MF Max Gradel, 7 -- Making his first start since the end of August after coming on for the injured Junior Stanislas in the last game at Watford. Gradel made a quick impression in that game and Saints found him equally hard to deal with. He looks set for a long run in the team even when Stanislas, whose form had dipped, recovers.
FW Josh King, 7 -- Has responded exactly as Howe would want to the arrival of three new strikers and the threat to his place in the starting lineup. His battling run to the wing drew the free kick that produced the opening goal. Regularly takes a buffeting but fearless throughout. Withdrawn with 20 minutes to go.
FW Benik Afobe, 7 -- Instead of dropping deep as he did in previous games, Afobe used the wings more creatively this time. Quieter in the second half and probably merited being substituted more than King but produced an excellent near-post header to clinch the points.
MF Dan Gosling, 6 -- Lost his place in the switch in formation from 4-1-4-1 to two forwards, but kept the ball going forward after replacing Arter on 65 minutes.
FW Lewis Grabban, 7 -- In previous games, Grabban has not looked worth the £7 million paid to bring him back from Norwich, but playing slightly deeper he was in better form here.
MF Marc Pugh, NR -- Given a few minutes at the end in place of Gradel, but insufficient time to do enough to warrant a return to the starting XI.
Steve Menary is a freelance journalist who covers football for the likes of the BBC and World Soccer.