Crewe Alexandra v Bournemouth: Osman eyes push for play-off spot
EDDIE Howe splashed the cash on star winger Matt Ritchie to fire Bournemouth to automatic promotion – then handed him a full debut at left-back.
Still, like almost everything else the manager has tried since making his second coming at Dean Court, the idea paid off.
Ritchie, who arrived for £500,000 from Swindon last month, helped his side to a 2-0 win over Portsmouth and their 14th win in 20 games in League One.
It means Bournemouth, 21st when Howe returned in October, could go top of the third tier for the first time since August 1997 with the right result at Gresty Road this evening (7.45pm).
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A victory could be just as pivotal to Crewe, however, as the Alex go Cherry-picking knowing three points would haul them right into the play-off picture.
Steve Davis's side are 12th, seven points shy of the top six with games in hand on most of the teams above.
Midfielder Abdul Osman says fixtures like this one against teams flying high around them will dictate how the season pans out.
He said: "I thought we were the better team against Notts County on Saturday so it was disappointing only to come away with a 1-1 draw. We see it as two points dropped.
"Now it's important we try to build an unbeaten run and rack up those points on the board.
"We've got some hard games coming up (Bournemouth, Coventry and Sheffield United in League One over the next month) but we've shown we can be a match for anyone.
"We need to be at our best consistently."
Consistency is the buzz word for Davis, too, as he seeks revenge for a 3-1 defeat on the south coast just 17 days ago.
Odds were always against the Alex once two controversial penalties had been awarded to the home team by referee Iain Williamson.
That slightly skewed scoreline still stands out as rather a blip among hard-to-beat Crewe's recent results – but hard-to-please Davis has not been too impressed with performances.
He said: "We are not a good team yet. We can't say that or else we would be able to master 90 minutes rather than just play well for 45. We are a decent team who could become a good team if we can get that right.
"I'm not too sure what it is, if it's concentration, an inability to keep producing our best for an extended period or whether the opposition are adapting their game, but we have to learn.
"When we go a goal in front, which we have done quite often this season, we have let that lead slip – we have to learn how to hold onto our advantage."
Harry Davis (toe) is pushing for a recall at the back after missing the draw at Notts County and last week's Johnstone's Paint win at Coventry.
Mathias Pogba, who also missed the Coventry game while on international duty, is expected to be drafted back into the starting line-up this evening.
Bournemouth will give a late fitness test to Charlie Daniels (foot), with Ritchie on standby to fill in at left-back once again.
Skipper Tommy Elphick could also make it in time for the trip to Crewe as the central defender recovers from a knee injury.