By Toby Foster (@TobyFost)
AFC Bournemouth manager Jonathan Woodgate has called on his team to “be even more consistent” as the Championship promotion battle reaches its climax.
The Cherries have five games left to play and sit fifth in the table, putting them on course to finish in the playoffs – though they face league-leaders Norwich City this weekend.
A run of five consecutive league wins has catapulted Woodgate’s side into their advantageous position and the Bournemouth boss said he is determined to see that formidable form continue.
“I am happy. It’s the business end of the season but we need to keep on pushing”, he told the press.
“We can’t be satisfied now – the season hasn’t ended now.
“We need to… be even more consistent towards the end of the season. We’ve got some good players in that changing room. We need to keep on producing.”
The former England defender emphasised to Buzz Sport the importance of “mentality” in keeping his side motivated ahead of a punishing end to the season, in which they will take on four top-half sides in their final five games.
“Any game in the Championship can be notoriously difficult, and the players know that every single game we play is difficult”, Woodgate told Buzz.
“Mentality needs to be right [in] every single game. We should be ok from there.”
Woodgate declared that further improvement from his charges was possible ahead of the final push for promotion back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
“You always want more improvement in your team, you’re never satisfied with how you’re performing, you can always improve your team in different areas of the pitch”, he said.
“I’ve got a good bunch of lads in there who want to listen, and when you tell them stuff, they listen. So when I’m giving them little messages, hopefully they keep taking it on board and they can improve their performance.
“We’re in a decent enough position at the minute.”
The Cherries boss heaped praise on opponents Norwich, who could seal promotion to the Premier League this weekend, having been relegated from the top flight last season.
Woodgate said: “They’ve been having an unbelievable season, and full credit to the board for sticking by the manager when they got relegated from the Premier League.
“He got them promotion okay [in 2018/19] and the Premier League didn’t go to plan, but they stick by what they believed in, and it showed this season.
“They’ve been a really consistent team all season.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, but we want to try and impose our game onto them. We can’t always just talk about what Norwich are going to do – it’s about what Bournemouth are going to do.”
The manager confirmed that the Cherries have no fresh fitness concerns ahead of the fixture, although Lewis Cook remains sidelined with a long-term injury.
Striker Shane Long will face a late fitness test after missing Tuesday’s win over Huddersfield with a groin issue, with Woodgate assessing the 34-year-old’s chances of featuring against Norwich as “touch and go”.
AFC Bournemouth take on Norwich City at Carrow Road on Saturday 17th April. Kick-off is at 8pm. The match is available to watch online via iFollow.