Manager Scott Parker hailed substitute Siriki Dembele after he came off the bench to help fire promotion-chasing Bournemouth to a vital 3-2 win over Bristol City.
Dembele scored a sublime solo goal as the Cherries opened up a six-point lead over third-placed Huddersfield to move a step closer to a Premier League return.
Head coach Parker said: “He deserved it because he has been first class in the last two weeks.
“He has come into an environment and a culture that has been very different for Dems.
“He will say it has been difficult at times but he is starting to understand what we want from him.
“He is that guy that can be elusive and if you give him the ball, he can dribble one against one and cause people problems. It was a very good goal.
“I thought we were very good.
“We were disappointed to concede early from a set-piece but the team stuck to what we were about and were worthy of the three points.
“The game became a little bit edgy at the end but overall I was pleased with our performance. I was pleased with our mentality from start to finish.
“I thought we were brilliant in the first half and could have put the game out of reach.
“We are in a good place but the league table and the games in hand are irrelevant.
“I have got an unbelievable squad in terms of their mentality and everyone has got a part to play.”
The Cherries found themselves 1-0 down after only four minutes from a corner won when Nat Phillips headed Alex Scott’s dangerous delivery behind when facing his own goal.
From the resulting set-piece, Matty James floated the ball to the back post and home goalkeeper Mark Travers got a hand to Rob Atkinson’s towering header but could not keep it out.
It was Atkinson’s first goal in City colours.
Bournemouth hit back five minutes before half-time when Dominic Solanke slid in to turn Jordan Zemura’s cross into the bottom corner from six yards for his 25th goal of the season.
The hosts took the lead in the 52nd minute as Ryan Christie picked out Lewis Cook from a corner and the former England midfielder squeezed a long-range shot beyond Dan Bentley at his near post.
Dembele looked to have put the result beyond doubt nine minutes from time with a close-range finish after jinking his way past three City defenders.
Andreas Weimann gave City hope of staging a dramatic late comeback by tucking in Tommy Conway’s cross in stoppage time but Bournemouth held firm for the win.
City boss Nigel Pearson said: “We had a very honest performance. The players worked very hard and in the first half we defended well.
“We were gutsy, committed, and kept a good shape.
“You can see the quality Bournemouth have got and we needed to combat that but we cannot keep enough clean sheets.
“They have a lot of players who have played in the Premier League before but I thought we gave them a really good game.
“Not only were we playing a side very capable but physically they are top of the league and very fit, which reflects their former Premier League status.”
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