Football: Bournemouth on brink of promotion to Premier League
Bournemouth are on the verge of sealing promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club's history after Monday's 3-0 victory over Bolton.
Eddie Howe's side brushed aside Wanderers thanks to goals from Marc Pugh, Matt Ritchie and Callum Wilson at Dean Court and they now sit three points clear of third-placed Middlesbrough with only one game to play. The Cherries will be guaranteed of a place in the English top-flight if they take at least one point from their trip to Charlton on Saturday or if Middlesbrough fail to beat Brighton.
Even if Bournemouth lose and Middlesbrough win it would still take an extraordinary sequence of events for the team from the south-coast to be denied promotion as they have a vastly superior goal difference of +50 against Middlesbrough's +31. Bournemouth could also finish as the winners of the Championship if they better the result of already-promoted leaders Watford, who hold a one-point advantage over the Cherries and host Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday.
"I'm an eternal pessimist but it would take some blow up from this position not to make it. We have one more game and we want to finish on a high," Howe said. "This club was heading nowhere, it was heading out of business and to make such a quick turnaround is impressive. "You don't achieve anything on your own. It has taken a monumental effort from the players and coaching staff."
Regardless of whether they finish with silverware or not, promotion from the second tier will still be a remarkable achievement for Bournemouth, who came close to going into liquidation on three occasions in six months only seven years ago.
With a crowd capacity of only 11,700, Bournemouth, whose previous highest ever finish was 10th in the second tier last season, would rank as by far the smallest club in the Premier League next season. But their rise from obscurity to the brink of rubbing shoulders with the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United suggests it would be unwise to bet against them finding a way to survive among the elite.
They started the 2008-09 season in the fourth tier with a 17-point penalty, yet through the astute management of the long-serving Howe and the subsequent investment of Russian benefactor Maxim Demin, who has bankrolled the club since 2011, Bournemouth have defied the odds to put the Premier League's riches within touching distance Howe, who first joined Bournemouth as a 10-year-old and was already regarded as a club legend for his time as a successful player there, is in his second spell as manager after first taking charge aged 31 and saving the Cherries' Football League status before leading them to promotion in 2010 and then returning from a brief spell at Burnley to secure promotion to the Championship in 2013.
His belief in eye-catching attacking football has led Bournemouth to top the Championship goal-scoring charts this season and the hosts tore into Bolton in typically swashbuckling style. They took the lead in the 39th minute when Pugh fired home from Ritchie's cross and added a superb second three minutes later.
Wilson picked out Yann Kermorgant and his pass was met by Ritchie with a precise first-time finish into the bottom corner. That was enough to get the party in full swing and not even Kermorgant blazing a 70th penalty over the bar after Bolton's Dorian Dervite was sent off for fouling Wilson could silence the home fans. Fittingly, Wilson, Bournemouth's leading scorer, netted his 23rd goal of the season in the 78th minute and it wasn't long before he and his team-mates were mobbed by the jubilant home fans.