Brett Pitman marked his 250th league appearance with a goal as Bournemouth extended their thirteen match unbeaten run by seeing off Fulham at Dean Court.
The veteran striker gave Eddie Howe’s side the perfect start – heading home Matt Ritchie’s corner – and, although Marcus Bettinelli saved his penalty later on, the league leaders made sure of the points when Harry Arter drilled home from outside the box in the dying embers of the contest. This was a largely routine win for the Cherries, despite a brief Fulham flurry in the second half that suggested the visitors could make more of a game of it.
Fulham were always likely to force an uphill battle against an in-form side who have set the pace at the top of the Championship for much of the season. Bournemouth had the added motivation of reclaiming their spot at the summit after Ipswich had beaten Brentford in the early kick-off and they wasted no time in striking first. The first goal arrived from a set play with Pitman punishing some poor marking to ghost in at the near post and guide a smart header past Bettinelli from Ritchie’s devilish delivery.
Conditions made the sort of pretty passing football that both of these teams favour difficult to produce but the home side held a clear stranglehold on proceedings throughout the first half. Bettinelli saved well from a dangerous Ritchie free-kick and then kept out Callum Wilson’s follow up. Fulham threatened only on the break and looked set to be two down early in the second half when Grimmer pushed over Callum Wilson in the penalty area. Pitman drove the spot kick hard and low, but Bettinelli stayed in the centre of goal and made another excellent stop.
Fulham fashioned a couple of good chances after the interval as they tried to conjure up an equaliser. Soka Fofana’s speculative shot from the edge of the box whistled wide and Scott Parker finally tested an underemployed Artur Boruc with a low drive. Bournemouth came again and looked the more likelier scorers as time ticked down, with Marc Pugh denied by Bettinelli again after more excellent play by Ritchie. The Fulham goalkeeper was finally beaten by Arter’s effort from the edge of the box as the hosts completed another impressive victory.
AFC BOURNEMOUTH (4-2-3-1): Boruc; Francis, Daniels, Elphick, Cook; Arter, Surman; Ritchie (Smith 90+3), Pugh, Pitman (Gosling 86); Wilson (Kermorgant 90+3). Subs (not used): Camp, Cargill, O’Kane, Fraser.
BOOKED: Pitman, Gosling.
GOALS: Pitman (9), Arter (90+2).
FULHAM (4-1-2-1-2): Bettinelli; Grimmer, Stafylidis, Hutchinson, Bodurov; Parker; Fofana, Christensen (Williams 66); Ruiz (Roberts 80); McCormack, Rodallega (Woodrow 87). Subs (not used): Kiraly, Burn, Zverotic, Hyndman.
REFEREE: Keith Stroud (Hampshire).