Bournemouth moved up to fifth in the Championship with a fifth consecutive league victory, as goals from Philip Billing and Dominic Solanke edged them closer to securing a place in the play-offs.
It was another dominant performance from Jonathan Woodgate’s side, who took control of the match with Billing’s early strike against his former club, followed by Solanke’s composed finish on the stroke of half-time.
But they offered little after the break and had to withstand a fightback to move above Barnsley and five points clear of seventh-placed Reading, with a header from captain Jonathan Hogg giving late hope to a Huddersfield side still at risk of relegation after a fifth match without a win.
Story of the match
Bournemouth started in a manner befitting their form, Lloyd Kelly forcing the first save within a minute, and there was an inevitability about the opening goal within a quarter of an hour, and perhaps the goalscorer too.
Arnaut Danjuma was denied by the legs of goalkeeper Ryan Schofield after being allowed to stride forward, but the rebound fell to Billing unmarked in the centre of the box to nod home a fourth goal in five matches.
Having been closed in early by Bournemouth’s tenacity off the ball, Huddersfield enjoyed a better spell with Asmir Begovic required to dive low to deny Aaron Rowe and Jonathan Hogg having a dangerous effort blocked by Cameron Carter-Vickers, but otherwise their play when in advanced positions was poor.
The hosts continued to struggle defensively as well, and received let-offs from Danjuma, who skied from close range after Adam Smith’s pull-back, and Solanke, the striker pulling a tricky shot wide after a long ball put him in behind.
The striker was more clinical a matter of seconds later though. Huddersfield looked to play out from the resulting goal kick and Rarmani Edmonds-Green passed directly to Ben Pearson, who found Solanke in acres of space to turn and find the top corner, doubling his side’s lead right on the stroke of half-time.
They may have felt the game was won with that goal, because they never got out of second gear after the break. Huddersfield could have started the fightback early if not for the woodwork, with Lewis O’Brien smacking the top of the post following an exquisite one-two with Rowe.
Bournemouth found none of the fluency that they had shown in the first half, with Naby Sarr throwing himself in front of several frustrated Solanke efforts and Jefferson Lerma heading their only other chance high and wide before the fightback began.
It required the intervention of the skipper to finally bring Huddersfield into the game with 14 minutes remaining, Hogg making a fine run to get in front of Jack Stacey and expertly head a Duane Holmes corner back across goal and beyond Begovic.
They had drawn their previous four home matches and pushed late on to extend that sequence, but Bournemouth held on with the best late chance coming at the other end, substitute Sam Surridge’s sliding effort tipped over by Schofield.
Top Billing for Cherries
On the stage where he first made his mark in Huddersfield's charge to promotion and subsequent spell in the Premier League, Billing underlined his star quality with another impressive performance.
The finishing of Solanke, threat of Danjuma and skill of David Brooks has often been at the fore this season for Bournemouth, but it is Billing who has emerged as the key player in the past month following an inspired switch to the number 10 role.
His early goal, the fourth he has scored in his side’s current five-match winning run having only scored three all season beforehand, was a relatively simple header, but again showed the ability to time runs into the box and find space in there that is key for all top players in that position.
The goals make the headlines but his all-round play has been impressive, with Woodgate enthusing after the match: “He’s a very good number 10. He’s adding goals to his game, his composure on the ball was outstanding at times when we needed it today. I’m happy for him, he works his socks off in games and if you do that and keep getting forward you’re going to get goals.”
Familiar issues for Terriers
Head coach Carlos Corberan insisted after the match that his side had performed well for stages of the game, but it is hard to agree with such a positive assessment of their display, which only caught fire too late on and, even in their better moments, was still lacking.
The biggest problem was a familiar one for the side with the Championship’s second-worst defensive record. Both goals were horribly soft, the first from a failure to track both Danjuma with the ball and Billing without out, and the second a combination of an error playing out from the back and a failure to subsequently get anywhere near close enough to scorer Solanke.
They did rally in the second half against a strangely passive Bournemouth side, but even when they did have pockets of good possession in the game the final piece of play was badly lacking. Rowe was by far their best outlet, with Juninho Bacuna and Holmes creating too little for the isolated Frazier Campbell and Isaac Mbenza especially wasteful.
The introductions of Rolando Aarons and Sorba Thomas provided a lift and the pair will hope to get more opportunities to impress before the end of the season. However, if Huddersfield continue to concede such basic goals – with the mauling at Carrow Road still fresh in the memory – it will be of little significance.
Man of the match - Philip Billing (Bournemouth)
The Dane enjoyed a successful return to his former club, opening the scoring to continue his fine recent form in front of goal, and being involved in much of their most bright attacking play