Crewe Alexandra 1 Bournemouth 2: Railwaymen haunted again by old nemesis Brett Pitman
BRETT Pitman scored his fourth and fifth goals against Crewe in 17 days as new League One leaders Bournemouth scraped a win at Gresty Road.
Pitman had bagged a hat-trick involving two controversially-awarded penalties when the Cherries won the reverse fixture 3-1 just last month.
And he was at it again last night, opening the scoring in a tight game from the spot in the 59th minute after Matt Ritchie had gone tumbling under the close watch of Kelvin Mellor and Mathias Pogba.
Pogba levelled 11 minutes from time with a bullet header from close range, but Pitman struck a winner in the 84th minute when he cracked an effort into the bottom corner.
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Pogba was drafted back into the starting line-up at the expense of Byron Moore, having lost his place when he made his international debut for Guinea last week, and started wide right so Ajay Leitch-Smith and Chuks Aneke could continue their partnership in the centre.
Gregor Robertson also made a return to the team, with Matt Tootle ruled out with a toe injury. Jon Guthrie strained a groin in the warm-up and was replaced on the substitutes' bench by George Ray.
Captain Tommy Elphick failed a fitness test for the visitors and key man Marc Pugh was missing with flu.
Pogba was straight into the action, bustling down the flank, and teed up Luke Murphy for a dipping shot from 25 yards which Shwan Jalal pushed around the post.
Mark Ellis headed the resultant corner narrowly wide.
The Cherries' Matt Ritchie, the £500,000 winger signed from Swindon Town last month, started at left-back, but had licence to roam forward.
Twice in the opening 12 minutes he managed to open up Crewe down that flank.
First his slick pass freed Josh McQuoid behind Kelvin Mellor to feed Brett Pitman, whose shot was blocked by Ellis.
Then he hammered in a volleyed cross which the home side were able to defend at the near post with McQuoid looking to profit from any error.
Mellor showed his value going forward, too, and Aneke really should have scored after the Crewe right-back presented him with a free shot five yards from goal.
Instead, the loanee forward pushed his shot weakly into the arms of Jalal.
It was a golden chance missed, but it looked as if Crewe would have more opportunities to make the breakthrough as they kept pushing forward.
Ellis was the next to go close when he fired wide from just outside the box after neat play from Brad Inman and Pogba.
At the other end, Ritchie took stick from the home crowd for going to ground too easily as the Cherries searched for a way into the Crewe box – and in the main had to settle for trying their luck from distance.
Harry Arter saw his deflected effort spin on to the roof of the net and, although Richard Hughes stung the palms of Phillips, the keeper was never worried.
Inman was booked for dissent when he kicked the ball away in front of the 246 travelling fans, but referee Richard Clark swiftly evened things up when he showed Ritchie a yellow card for fouling Pogba.
Murphy was the main orchestrator of openings for Crewe and the captain slipped through a ball for Inman to chase into the area in the 40th minute.
Inman took a couple of strides, but his shot had too many bodies to beat.
Wes Fogden replaced McQuoid at half-time and Crewe immediately launched an attack down the left with Inman, who played in Leitch-Smith to poke towards the bottom corner at full-stretch. Jalal scrambled across to concede a corner.
Inman remained at the fore and it was the midfielder who was fouled to present Murphy with the chance with a dead ball from right on the edge of the area.
His curling effort struck the bar with Jalal helpless and the rebound fell kindly for the panicked defenders to clear.
Bournemouth countered and Pitman scuffed a shot from close range with Phillips managed to turn around the post, just.
Pogba smashed a drive into the side-netting after cutting inside, but it was at the other end where he was to have his next big contribution.
The former Wrexham man was rushing back to defend with Mellor when Ritchie went to ground in the area.
It was a harsh call from rookie referee Richard Clark, from Northumberland, and Pitman stepped up to stroke the penalty into the corner just beyond the fingertips of Phillips.
Crewe needed to open up as they went in search of an equaliser, but were almost caught on the counter when Fogden used his power and pace to run into space.
Adam Dugdale managed to push the forward wide before blocking his shot.
Aneke might have brought the Alex level with a close range header, then Ellis thought he had when his header, after he had stayed up from a Murphy set-piece, beat Jalal only to strike against the post, although the linesman raised his flag anyway.
Phillips twice thwarted Lewis Grabban, but Crewe were soon back on the front foot and, after Steve Davis had introduced Moore and Ryan Colclough for Aneke and Leitch-Smith, it was quickly all-square.
Mellor burst down the right and his cross found Pogba to rise highest and nod into the top corner.
However, Gresty Road was not on a high for long. Steve Cook swung in a cross for Pitman to smash into the net to restore Bournemouth's advantage.
There were relieved faces all around as Pitman was subsequently replaced by Matt Tubbs and denied the chance of repeating his three-goal haul from Dean Court, then, as injury time approached, Inman made way for Max Clayton.
Clayton had a half-chance to be the hero when the ball dropped near him in a crowded area, but the teenage forward could not connect properly and Bournemouth held out for a 2-1 win and take the initiative in the title chase, while Crewe drop to 13th.