The Cherries extended their unbeaten run to 12 league matches and top the Sky Bet Championship this Christmas after a 6-1 win at Blackpool.
Bottom met top at Bloomfield Road, but a ruthless performance and goals from five different players ensured that the Cherries remained top of the Football League for two weeks running for the first time since August.
Eddie Howe opted to revert back to the same eleven who started the 5-3 victory over Cardiff City seven days before. The only change to the 18 saw Baily Cargill replace Junior Stanislas on the bench after his assured performance in midweek against Premier League Liverpool.
A corner routine inside the first ten minutes almost saw the visitors take an early lead. Brett Pitman’s low centre found Ritchie unmarked on the centre spot, but his scuffed shot was blocked by a wall of tangerine on the line.
It may have taken the travelling fans a moment to register, but the Cherries took the lead through the same man 18 minutes in. Ritchie, who has had more attempts on goal than any other player in the Sky Bet Championship this season, received possession 25 yards out. He danced past one defender before aiming what seemed a tame long range effort towards Joe Lewis’ goal from the angle of the penalty area. The Cherries faithful, housed on the opposite side of the pitch, thought it had hit the side netting, but Lewis failed to execute what seemed like a routine stop and palmed it into the back of his own net.
The Cherries had been in control for much of proceedings already, but the goal seemed to quash any pre-match nerves and the league leaders clicked into gear. Marc Pugh’s effort was pushed away by Lewis, before Ritchie saw another long range attempt whistle wide of the upright.
Steve Cook’s deep cross found Wilson at the back post, but when his header across goal was bundled towards the net by Brett Pitman, the referee was quick to issue the first caution of the game for a handball by the Cherries striker.
Moments later the Cherries doubled their lead. Charlie Daniels refused to give up when Kevin Foley looked to shield the ball out for a goal kick. The left-back hooked his leg around the ‘Pool defender and aimed the ball into the six yard box, where Wilson was on hand to dispatch his 13th goal of the season.
Lee Clark made two changes at the break, hoping to spark his Blackpool side into life. Nathan Delfouneso nearly had an immediate impact, but Artur Boruc was adjudged to have been in full control of the ball when the gangly front man bundled it over the line.
Any hope of a Tangerines fight back was effectively put to bed though when a hastily cleared corner fell to Ritchie. The wide man had time to take aim and curl a left footed shot into the top corner, leaving Lewis no chance.
Delfouneso pulled one back five minutes later, converting a cross from six yards out, but the two goal deficit lasted under two minutes when the Cherries were awarded a penalty for a foul on Wilson. The celebration music had barely ceased when Darren O’Dea upended the frontman, and Pitman converted the spot-kick at the second time of asking, after referee Andy Madley spotted an encroachment during the first.
The Cherries were in an uncompromising mood and set about the home side’s goal, hungry for more. Simon Francis overlapped Ritchie and then cut back for substitute Yann Kermorgant, whose powerful strike was somehow tipped over by Lewis. Ritchie’s deep cross swirled in the sea breeze and evaded Andrew Surman, but Pugh was in space at the back post to nod home for five.
Pugh turned provider 15 minutes from time to complete the rout. The proud Lancastrian controlled Ritchie’s switch, and stroked it into the path of Harry Arter, who took one touch before placing it into the back of the net.
On a surface that was more Blackpool pleasure beach than Bloomfield Road, Bournemouth’s football was captivating throughout, and the entire playing staff were afforded a standing ovation as they left the pitch from a host of Seasiders supporters who hung back to show their admiration.
Blackpool: Lewis, Perkins, Clarke, Davies, Eagles (Delfouneso h/t), Foley, McMahon, O’Hara, Kennedy, Nosworthy (O’Dea 60), O’Keefe (Murphy h/t).
Subs: Orlandi, Delfouneso, Miller, Parish, Murphy, Waddington, O’Dea.
Goals: Delfouneso 65’.
Cherries: Boruc, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Ritchie, Arter, Surman, Pugh (Smith 79), Pitman (Kermorgant 70), Wilson.
Subs: Camp, Smith, Cargill, Gosling, O’Kane, Fraser, Kermorgant.
Goals: Ritchie 18’, 59’, Wilson 42’, Pitman 67’ (pen), Arter 76’.