SHREWD Steve Fletcher has dismissed Cherries’ tag as hot favourites to extend their winning run and claims the bookies “need their heads examining”.
Dorset firm Jem Racing have quoted Eddie Howe’s men as odds-on to record their eighth win of the season against League Two newcomers Burton Albion tomorrow.
And just eight games into the new campaign, the Court">Dean Court outfit are a best-priced 10-11 to win promotion and 4-1 second favourites for the title behind Notts County.
Fletcher has been pivotal in helping Cherries climb to the League Two summit but knows full well that Howe’s heroes are there to be shot at, with the Brewers the next in line to take aim.
He told the Daily Echo: “The league is wide open and there is nothing between the teams at the top and those at the bottom. Nothing is a given in this division.
“Anyone who has watched this league for a few years knows exactly what it’s all about. You’ve got to be at your best to win any game, home or away.
“It’s not like the Premier League where there are three leagues in one. There may be a bit of difference between strengths of squads but anything else is minimal.
“Every game becomes bigger and everybody wants to shoot you down when you’re at the top. Anybody who thinks a win for us is going to be a formality needs to think again.”
Fletcher faced Burton for Crawley a year ago and just as the Brewers were embarking on a 22-match league run that yielded no fewer than 19 wins between September and February. However, an end-of-season wobble saw them claim the Conference title by just two points.
“They were under Nigel Clough at the time I played them and were a very good outfit,” said Fletcher. “They were strong and very well organised which is why they walked the Conference for three-quarters of the season. I don’t know whether they relaxed a bit towards the end of the season but they made it difficult for themselves.
“But they were head and shoulders above the rest and got what they deserved because they were the best team in the Conference by some distance.
“We have seen clubs like Exeter and Carlisle come up from the Conference and continue on the crest of a wave. I’m sure Burton will be hoping to do the same under Paul Peschisolido and we’ve got to make sure we don’t come unstuck against them.”
Fletcher looks set to come face to face with long-serving Burton defender Darren Stride who has made almost 650 appearances for the club.
He added: “We are probably the two players in the Football League to have played most games for one club.
“Darren is an experienced campaigner and a strong character. He will be a very difficult opponent and will certainly have something to prove if he reclaims his place in the team.”
Cherries fans can now get their hands on a match programme and the Echo’s Saturday edition (including magazine) for just £3.25.
The offer (subject to availablity) starts tomorrow, when Eddie Howe’s men welcome Burton Albion to Dean Court.