Sky Bet Championship leaders AFC Bournemouth head to the DW Stadium on Saturday.
- Eddie Howe’s side have lost three of last five in all competitions.
- Latics looking to close gap to safety to just four points; Cherries hope to go three clear at the top.
- Potential DW Stadium debuts for six new Latics signings whilst Jason Pearce and Liam Ridgewell look to come up against former club.
With 18 games remaining in the 2014-15 Sky Bet Championship campaign, there is still plenty to play for at both top and bottom and this game embodies both those positions.
Eddie Howe’s AFC Bournemouth head into the final three months of the season in pole position for promotion to the Premier League and a win on Saturday could see the gap at the top increase to three points and the lead on third place Middlesbrough to four.
For Latics, the game represents a chance to record a first home win since August against a Cherries side they have won six of nine against in Wigan, whilst drawing the other three in an impressive run against the south coast outfit.
Tickets are still available for Saturday’s game with Malky Mackay’s side hoping to close the gap to safety to just four points.
LAST TIME OUT
Wigan Athletic 3 – 0 AFC Bournemouth
Saturday 11th January 2014
Sky Bet Championship
Latics stretched their unbeaten run to seven games with a convincing 3-0 win on AFC Bournemouth’s last visit to the DW Stadium.
Marc-Antoine Fortuné’s opener was followed up by an Elliott Ward own goal and a Jordi Gomez strike to lift Latics up to 10th in the Championship.
French striker Fortuné bagged after just five minutes as he fired into Lee Camp’s top right-hand corner, after a neat turn, for his second goal of the campaign.
Latics could have doubled the advantage in the first-half with James McArthur, Nick Powell and Callum McManaman going close before Tokelo Rantie, Lewis Grabban and Marc Pugh spurned chances for the visitors.
Ward then deflected Fortuné’s sliced effort over Camp on the hour to double the advantage for the hosts.
And Gomez made it 3-0 after 90 minutes with a superb 30-yard hit after receiving the ball from Fortuné.
AFC BOURNEMOUTH IN 2014/15 SO FAR
After a solid 2013-14 campaign, AFC Bournemouth harboured hopes of another positive campaign this time around but the achievements of Eddie Howe and his side have even gone in excess of what they’d have predicted as the Cherries head into the final three months of the campaign in pole position for promotion to the top-flight.
The departure of last season’s 22-goal frontman Lewis Grabban was aided by the signing of striker Callum Wilson from Coventry City as well as the arrivals of Dan Gosling, Junior Stanislas and Andrew Surman as Howe built a squad of players with an abundance of experience in the Football League.
Back-to-back league wins got the campaign off to a flyer before a six-game winless run in the league left the Cherries in 15th place in the table, just a point above Latics who had a game in hand.
However, Bournemouth won the reverse fixture of today’s game at the Goldsands Stadium 2-0 and won 11 of their next 15 league games to move four points clear at the top of the table following a 2-0 success at Millwall going into the New Year.
Defeats to Leeds United and Norwich City in 2015 have left the Cherries level on points with second place Derby County but a superior goal difference has put Howe’s side top of the pack heading into February.
Bournemouth have a symmetric home and away record of eight wins, three draws and three defeats with their most impressive statistics coming from their tight defence on the road which has seen them concede just 11 goals away from home, a record only Middlesbrough can better.
The Cherries have also scored the most away goals in the division with 32, with their 8-0 win at Birmingham City making a large contribution.
Wilson is currently the fifth leading goal-scorer in the second tier after signing from Coventry in the summer with 12 goals but Bournemouth’s squad is filled with an abundance of players with scoring potential as Matt Ritchie has notched eight goals and Yann Kermorgant, Brett Pitman and Marc Pugh all have seven.
The good times are well and truly back on the south coast with the foundations also laid down by a defence that has kept 12 clean sheets and a core of the squad that has been ever-present with Steve Cook, Tommy Elphick, Harry Arter and Ritchie featuring in every league game to date.
MAN TO WATCH – MATT RITCHIE
The Cherries midfield is as strong as any in the second tier and winger Matt Ritchie is continuing to impress after signing from Swindon Town for a reported £400,000 in January 2013.
A Portsmouth youth graduate, Ritchie progressed through the ranks at Fratton Park and made his debut, after loan spells at Dagenham & Redbridge, Notts County and Swindon Town, against Latics in the Premier League at the DW Stadium.
Another brief stay in Pompey’s first-team followed at the start of the 2010/11 campaign but Ritchie, who had won Portsmouth’s Young Player of the Year award, moved to Swindon again on loan before the deal was made permanent in January 2011.
Ritchie helped the Robins to promotion to League One and made a total of 129 appearances, scoring 28 goals in his three years at the County Ground before moving to Bournemouth.
Since joining the Cherries, Ritchie has made 82 appearances, scoring 20 goals - eight of which have come in this campaign.