Pugh wreaks havoc in man-of-the-match display as Cherries thrash Boro
It was another day to remember for Bournemouth on Saturday, as they thumped Middlesbrough 4-0 and claimed another three points. The victory pushes the south coast club up to 38 points in the Premier League and fans can start to breathe a sigh of relief with regards to their status in England's top division.
While it already looks likely, Eddie Howe's team now need just one more victory to ensure they are definitely playing Premier League football for a third season in a row.
Charlie Daniels and Marc Pugh's link-up play throughout the game was impressive and the duo proved their partnership is an extremely valuable attacking outlet when both are in sync with each other. Elsewhere, Harry Arter put in a solid performance and even the usually shaky Simon Francis was dominant in defence. Seeing some more minutes under Lewis Cook's belt was also a plus.
The obvious negative from the match was losing Dan Gosling to injury. Having already lost Jack Wilshere and Andrew Surman in recent weeks, another blow in central midfield was the last thing the Cherries would have wanted. Another very minor negative would be Benik Afobe's finishing, as he had several chances to score that he didn't manage to convert.
Manager rating out of 10
10 -- Howe selected the correct XI and the decision to trust the inexperienced Cook in central midfield when Gosling had to come off with an injury was pleasing to see.
Player ratings: (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Artur Boruc, 7 -- Had very little to do all game, but his save to deny a 30-yard Stewart Downing volley was brilliant and stopped an otherwise certain goal.
DF Adam Smith, 7 -- Did everything that was asked of him. Has a brilliant first touch, which often bails him out of danger in tight areas, and displayed it on a couple of occasions here.
DF Simon Francis, 8 -- Dealt with Alvaro Negredo with ease and displayed the type of leadership at the back that is exactly what any team wants from their captain. Looked certain to be ousted from the starting XI two months ago, but is suddenly one of the first names on the team sheet.
DF Steve Cook, 7 -- Played well alongside Francis and helped out where he could. Put in some useful headers, but had little to do in fairness. It was an easy afternoon's work.
DF Charlie Daniels, 8 -- Played a big part in slicing the visitors open for the first goal and even found his name on the score sheet in the second half. May be questionable defensively at times, but in terms of attacking threat he's up there with the best attacking full-backs in the league.
MF Ryan Fraser, 7 -- Delivered some impressive free kicks into the Boro box on several occasions and his 56th-minute cross to find Afobe in the box should have resulted in a goal.
MF Harry Arter, 8 -- What a fantastic engine this man has. Tackled well and his assist for Bournemouth's second was typical of his persistent closing down, which he has shown in every game this season. It was about time he got a reward for his efforts.
MF Dan Gosling, 6 -- Worked well alongside Arter in midfield during the time he was on the pitch. Was a useful pivot in midfield and always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.
MF Marc Pugh, 9 -- Was the man of the match in what was his best performance of the season. Caused constant havoc down the flank and assisted a goal before comfortably scoring one of his own in brilliant style.
FW Joshua King, 7 -- Took the opening goal in reliable fashion and his pace frequently stretched the struggling Boro defence throughout the 90 minutes he was on the pitch.
FW Benik Afobe, 7 -- Caused problems for Middlesbrough throughout the 90 with his physicality and got his reward with a goal. Despite finding the back of the net once, he still had more than his fair share of opportunities to find it on several other occasions.
MF Lewis Cook, 7 -- Came on in the first half to replace the injured Gosling and didn't look out of place in the Bournemouth midfield. Made a couple of impressive passes and displayed he's more than worthy of a start if Gosling is out for the next game.
MF Junior Stanislas, N/R -- Replaced Fraser late in the second half and did little of note.
FW Lys Mousset, N/R -- Was an 84th-minute substitute who supplied some useful pace in stretching the tired Boro back line and helped to close out the match.
Will Kent is a freelance journalist who has worked for AFC Bournemouth, ESPN UK and ESPN FC, among others. Twitter: @WillKentSPORT