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Cherries: Pitman's flash of genius steals the show

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05 Apr 2010 07:00:00

Cherries: Pitman's flash of genius steals the show

ALL eyes were on the big number 33 even his own. As the new sign on top of the renamed Steve Fletcher Stand carried a picture of the man himself he had the best view in the house for this most comfortable of home wins. Having watched Fletcher cut the ribbon on the terrace which now proudly carries his name and face, most of the bumper 6,239-strong crowd had descended on Dean Court to pay homage to one of the club's favourite sons. No doubt they would have expected him to arrive right on cue with a goal, as he has been known to do when the script dictates. But for once, Fletcher did not provide his adoring public with the outcome they might have expected. They certainly got what they wanted a valuable three points but it came thanks to the 37-year-old's more than able accomplice. While it was the name of club legend Fletcher which was sung before and after this one-sided victory, it was Brett Pitman who stole the show amid rising decibel levels. Cherries' promotion juggernaut today visits league leaders Rochdale. It will provide Eddie Howe's men with the sternest of tests but with Pitman anything is possible. The Jerseyman might never have a stand named after him or go on to serve the club for as many years as his strike partner, but his goalscoring exploits will earn him a place in Cherries' history books. If Howe's side go on to claim a place in League One next term, it will be impossible to overlook the contribution of their mercurial frontman. On Saturday, it was a flash of trademark Pitman genius that earned the points. After classy Shaun Cooper had won the ball with an exceptional sliding challenge and distributed it neatly following a majestic Cruyff turn, Cherries never looked back. He fed Feeney who found the feet of Fletcher 20 yards from goal. The targetman held the ball and Pitman, taking it in his stride, cut inside and curled an exquisite left-footed shot past motionless Bantams keeper Matt Glennon. The build-up owed much to cultured Cooper, but the finish was one Cherries supporters have become used to seeing from their main man. In netting the game's only goal, Pitman brought up two magical milestones. He became only the third Cherries player in 38 years after James Hayter and Colin Clarke to register 20 league goals. And by doing so, he notched the 50th league strike of his career. While the meaning of that will not be lost on Cherries fans, whose team now hold a five-point cushion over the chasing play-off pack, their star is not one to keep track of his personal achievements. It's nice to be told I didn't really know anything about it, he revealed afterwards. I don't look at statistics. I look at how many points we've got on the board and me scoring 20 goals has helped that, so I'm pleased. So often the target of unfair criticism from the stands in the past, Pitman's worth can no longer be questioned. His manager certainly did not seek to play down his importance. The work rate and goals together are a fearsome combination, said Howe. If he can just remain consistent between now and the end of the season in terms of work rate, he can get even more (goals). It was just another great goal to go with the good season he's having. While Pitman's strike was memorable, much of what went before it in the first half failed to match that standard. But for a few speculative efforts at both ends, neither keeper had an awful lot to do until Glennon watched Pitman's shot sail into the right-hand corner of his net. The second half was far better with dominant Cherries again well on top and playing some fine football. With Feeney again the major outlet on the right flank, the lively hosts had plenty of chances to extend their advantage. Danny Hollands, superb after the break, forced Glennon into a routine save, before Lee Bradbury did the same with a low drive. Cherries came perilously close to losing their advantage on 63 minutes, though, when they received a rare warning shot from the Bantams. Gareth Evans got in behind and rattled the crossbar with a powerful strike which flew past Shwan Jalal. But that was all a poor Bradford side it was easy to see why they were without a win in their previous three outings had to offer going forward, and it was impressive Cherries who finished on top. Pitman should have added to his tally when found unmarked 10 yards from goal, but his fierce shot was too close to Glennon, who parried well. As they desperately sought a route back into the match, Bradford resorted to pushing giant defender Luke Oliver, a towering presence, into attack. But that had little effect on a Cherries defence which was marshalled powerfully by the excellent Marvin Bartley. Indeed, it was Cherries who almost had the final say when Pitman turned provider for Feeney. The winger, though, saw his effort hacked off the line by Bantams skipper Zesh Rehman. There is no doubt tougher tests will come for Cherries none more so than at Spotland this afternoon but this was another performance to savour in a promotion quest which is looking more achievable by the day. Cherries: (4-4-2) Jalal 6.5; Bradbury 7.5, Garry 7, Cooper 8 (Connell, 42, 6.5), Wiggins 7; Robinson 6.5, Hollands 8.5, Bartley 8.5*, Feeney 7.5; Pitman 8, Fletcher 6.5. Unused subs: Igoe, Partington, Cummings, McQuoid, Thomas (g/k). Bradford City: (4-4-2) Glennon; Rehman, Williams, Oliver, Threlfall; Evans, Bolder, Bullock, L O'Brien (Bateson, 76); Kendall (Osborne, 58), Hanson (Grant, 52). Unused subs: McLaughlin, Horne, O'Leary, J O'Brien. Booked: Bullock, Grant Referee: Pat Miller (Bedfordshire) Attendance: 6,239


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