David Brooks scored a brace, with a goal either side of half time, as Bournemouth fought a combative 3-1 victory against hosts Birmingham City. After taking an early lead through Arnaut Danjuma, the south coast side never looked back, with the only consolation for City coming in the flicked header off Scott Hogan on 55 minutes, when already three goals down.
The win moved Bournemouth up to 4th in the table, behind fellow relegated sides Norwich and Watford, and a Reading side whose early season form has been overshadowed by three straight losses. The loss dropped Birmingham down three places to 17th, but with the Championship as packed as ever, a three point gain in their next fixture could see them as high as 11th.
Bournemouth’s 170 mile trip up from the coast to play Birmingham City was for their first league meeting since 2015. That season’s matchups did not treat the West Midlands side kindly, with losses of 8-0 at home and 4-2 away to a Cherries side who would go on to win their first Championship title at the season’s end.
The beginning of the day found Bournemouth in 6th place, in the play-off places as beneficiaries of some strong early season form, but with only one win in their last six. Birmingham sat in 14th, the four points separating the two accounting for eight places in a packed Championship mid-table.
When play started, it was the home side who managed the first attempt on goal in the second minute, with Birmingham having a bright start.
The two sides then began to settle down into some more comfortable midfield play after the frantic first five minutes, with Jason Tindall’s Bournemouth looking the more comfortable, and with much play occurring in Birmingham’s half of the field.
It was the combination of Jake Stacey and David Brooks which proved Birmingham’s undoing in the ninth minute, when Cherries top scorer Danjuma slotted home for his 4th of the season, to give Bournemoth their early lead.
Success came again for the away side when Stanislas, playing in Danjuma on the left-hand side of the 18-yard box, and beat a slow-falling Etheridge to cross the goal and find its home in the bottom right-hand corner, taking the score to 2-0.
The final minutes of the first half featured growing discontent with referee Jarred Gillett from the home side, with Gary Gardner sarcastically applauding a decision to give a goal kick after his attempt at a headed shot was turned behind by a Bournemouth defender.
Bournemouth punctuated their strong first half on 42 minutes, when Brooks’ mazy run bisected San José and McGree, and a shot from distance deflected off the legs of Marc Roberts, beating an already-committed Etheridge to nestle in the bottom left-hand corner of the Birmingham net.
With four minutes added on, there was yet more drama, with Bournemouth nearly putting the ball in the net at both ends of the pitch before the half was out. Diego Rico’s sliced clearance on the edge of his own six yard box forced Begović down sharply to his left to prevent an own goal halving the deficit before the break.
The Birmingham City ship had barely set sail in the second half, before a third goal well and truly sunk any hope of a fightback in the 50th minute. After McGree was robbed in the centre of the pitch, the resulting counterattack finished in a cannonball of a shot from Solanke, which rebounded off the left upright and fell sweetly for David Brooks to double his personal tally on the night and put his side 3-0 up.
The home side’s half time team talk may not have been audible from the press box, but the intent of it was clear on the pitch, with waves of men in blue shirts charging down the right wing, putting the attack-minded Junior Stanislas, playing on the left of the midfield, under pressure, as well as Kelly and Rico in the Bournemouth defence.
Starting a strong period in the final third for the Blues, Bela drifted a free kick into the near post from the right-hand side of the pitch, and Scott Hogan’s glancing header passed a watching Begović for Birmingham’s first goal and some hope for the St Andrew’s-based side.
An increase in appetite was shown by the Bournemouth players after conceding, and it was Brooks, in search of a hat-trick, who made strides forward in the 64th minute. His medium-paced effort forced a strong save out of Etheridge to keep the deficit at just two.
While Bournemouth never looked like giving up their two goal lead, and crosses in from those in blue rarely found a shirt of the same colour at the other end, the playbook of the away side leant on various dark arts late on, and Junior Stanislas was dealt a yellow card for time wasting in the 72nd minute.
The search for a goal, and with it the chance of at least a point from the game, continued for Birmingham. The 83rd minute featured both Jutkiewicz and Bela firing wide right of the goal, the latter shooting from distance after a long throw was played out of the box.
As another four minutes were added, the Cherries players were determined to stretch out every second, Begović being hurried by the referee after pondering over a drop kick. However, the Dean Court-based side saw the game out, securing their first away win since a 3-1 victory over Coventry in the same stadium a month prior.
Speaking to the AFC Bournemouth website after the game, manager Jason Tindall was pleased by his side’s performance:
“We knew we had to respond, we knew we had to bounce back after a disappointing result and performance against Sheffield Wednesday, and we certainly did that today.”
Head coach Aitor Karanka was slightly less enthused by his Birmingham side, but was impressed by the tenacity on display:
“The most important thing today was the performance and the attitude and some parts of the game we competed against them. Conceding the second goal maybe killed us, and then we conceded another one just inside the second-half. But even at 3-1 down we were always trying to score a second goal.”