BOURNEMOUTH manager Eddie Howe heaped praise on Brett Pitman after the striker’s hat-trick saw off Crewe and consolidated the Cherries place in the League One play-off spots.
The 24-year-old striker opened the scoring with an eighth-minute penalty and got his second goal midway through the second half.
Ryan Colclough threatened to set up an exciting finish when he broke through for the visitors with 14 minutes remaining, but Pitman’s hat-trick sealed a 3-1 win which moves the hosts above Sheffield United and into fifth place.
Howe said: “We have played a lot of matches lately and with a heavy pitch, we looked leggy and tired.
“This was a big win for us because we had to grind it out. We were missing one or two players and others were carrying injuries. At times in the first half we looked dead on our feet.
“But such is the spirit and determination in the squad that we found our rhythm in the second half and were excellent.
“Brett Pitman’s scoring record is good as anyone’s. He worked hard and showed the right attitude after being left out of the side earlier this week.”
Notts County’s proud unbeaten away record ended with a 2-1 defeat at Leyton Orient in a clash of two mid-table teams.
Two goals in as many minutes midway through the second half from David Mooney and Mathieu Baudry had the east London club 2-0 ahead, before Jeff Hughes pulled one back 12 minutes from time.
Coventry were held to a 2-2 draw by Preston, who took the lead against the run of play on the half hour at Deepdale when Graham Cummins scored.
Leon Clarke (38) and Chris Robertson’s 53rd-minute own goal turned things around in the Sky Blues’ favour, until Nicky Wroe’s goal on the hour restored parity.
Colchester ended their poor recent run as goals from Jabo Ibehre and Freddie Sears inside the last 11 minutes gave them a 2-0 win over Walsall which moves them out of the relegation zone at Scunthorpe’s expense.
Karl Hawley’s goal against his former team in the 52nd minute gave the Iron the lead at Carlisle, before a spectacular free-kick from substitute David Symington salvaged a 1-1 draw for the Cumbrians.
Basement side Hartlepool were 3-1 winners at Portsmouth in the clash of the bottom two.
Jack Baldwin (18), James Poole (52) and Greg Rutherford (90) got Pools’ goals, with Jed Wallace replying for Pompey midway through the second half.
The other League One game, between Shrewsbury and Bury, ended goalless.