Rotherham United had to make the long trek from the South Coast empty-handed, as they slipped to a solitary goal defeat at the hands of Premier League chasing Bournemouth.
Paul Warne’s side made a good fist of things at a windswept Vitality Stadium, but they had nothing to show for their efforts as Danish midfielder Philip Billing struck the decisive winner, midway through the first half.
The Millers, who went into the game on the back of three successive away victories, kept the same starting XI which took to the field, in their last outing against Cardiff City.
Warne’s side settled into the game well and Dan Barlaser swung over a free-kick which was aimed at Clark Robertson, but the Scottish defender was penalised for a foul in the box.
The Millers had an early scare when Matt Olosunde made a hash of a clearance, and Sam Surridge looked set to break clear, but there was palpable relief, as the assistant referee had already flagged for offside.
At the other end, Barlaser executed a training ground move, as he pulled a corner back into the path of January player of the month, Matt Crooks, on the edge of the box, but the in-form midfielder failed to make a clean connection with his volley and the chance was lost.
The Millers were in confident mood and Wing planted a cross towards Crooks, but a home defender scrambled the ball clear before the Middlesbrough loanee put the resultant set-piece under the nose of Asmir Begovic, who luckily ushered the ball away from goal.
Just past the quarter hour, Rotherham failed to clear their lines and Arnaut Danjuma worked a yard of space before striking an effort from distance, but Viktor Johansson kept his nerve to smartly smother his shot before the Cherries frontman raced into the box, minutes later, but his cross-cum-shot smashed into the side netting.
Minutes later, Johansson pumped a long free-kick deep into home territory and his opposite number, Begovic, attempted to take charge, by taking the ball and man, in the shape of Richard Wood, and the Bosnian ‘keeper was again somewhat fortunate, to see the ball dribble away from goal.
Despite the Millers’ early promptings, Bournemouth took the lead on 23 minutes, in a fine counter-attacking move.
There looked little danger when Robertson clipped a ball forward but Adam Smith headed the ball back with interest and after Surridge had got the ball under his spell, Smith went on the overlap, before playing a pinpoint centre back past a backtracking Millers defence, and Billing was the grateful recipient, as he got the ball from under his feet to strike a sweet left-footed effort into the heart of the visitors goal giving Johansson no chance.
The Millers were knocked out of their stride temporarily until Wes Harding launched back-to-back long throws into the box, and on the second occasion, Wing struck a snap shot which was blocked at close quarters by a brave home defender.
Minutes later, Johansson was left short-changed by a Barlaser backpass, which held up in the wind, but the Rotherham ‘keeper bravely won the 50/50 challenge with Surridge, before Danjuma struck a low effort which was straight down Johansson’s throat.
In the next phase of play, Crooks and Smith, who have combined superbly in recent weeks, were at it again, when the latter dug out a cross, against all the odds, but Crooks, from a tight angle, could only fire into the side netting.
Just shy of the interval, Rotherham missed a gilt-edged chance to level matters.
Good work from Wing paved the way for Olosunde to dart away from Danjuma, who in frustration, hauled down the American in full flow.
Barlaser swung over the following free-kick into the box and with the Cherries defence going AWOL, Michael Ihiekwe showed good awareness to plant the ball across goal, and Wood looked a certain scorer, just yards out and with Begovic out of the frame, but frustratingly, the Millers skipper could not adjust his body position, and he hooked the ball over despite having the goal at his mercy.
Half-time- AFC Bournemouth 1 Rotherham United 0
The second half started in scrappy fashion until Wing launched an up-and-under which Bournemouth failed to deal with decisively and Crooks had a glimpse of goal, but the ball evaded his attentions.
The game sprang to life when Harding’s switch of play presented Wood with the chance to clip a ball to Crooks, who had got on the wrong side of the home defence, but his point-blank header was smartly blocked by Begovic, who had raced from his line – although any goal would have been ruled out due to an offside flag.
Just past the hour mark, Ben Wiles was harshly carded following a challenge on Jefferson Lerma, on halfway, before Bournemouth had faint appeals for a spot kick when Billing’s piledriver – with his favoured left-foot, appeared to strike the arm of Wood, just inside the box, but the referee waved away any home protests.
The Millers were very much in the contest and Harding’s throw into the channel was flicked on by Smith, and Wiles showed his class, by flicking the ball up, before firing a superb right-footed effort, which was arrowing into the top corner of the goal, but Begovic pulled off a top drawer save to keep the ball out.
Minutes later, Harding was yellow-carded for a late clip on Smith’s heels before Smith, in his final involvement, joined him in the book for a hefty challenge on Lewis Cook.
In an attempt to turn the tide of the encounter, Warne made a triple substitution – with quarter an hour to go - and it almost proved a masterstroke, when good football through the lines saw Wood spin superbly, and play a perfectly-weighted pass into the path of one of the replacements, Freddie Ladapo, who had got away from Lloyd Kelly, to bare down on Begovic but he didn’t read the script, as he blasted over.
Full-time: AFC Bournemouth 1 Rotherham United 0
AFC Bournemouth 1
Rotherham United 0
Teams: Bournemouth- Begovic, Kelly, Lerma, Danjuma (Brooks 62), Surridge, A Smith, L Cook (Pearson 87), Carter-Vickers, Stanislas, Rico, Billing. Unused- Travers, Zemura, Mepham, Wilshere, Riquelme, Anthony, Long.
Rotherham- Johansson, Olosunde (Giles 78), Ihiekwe, Wood, Robertson, Harding (A MacDonald 87), Wiles, Barlaser (Jozefzoon 69), Wing (Ladapo 78), Crooks, M Smith (Hirst 78). Unused- Blackman, Clarke, S MacDonald, Sadlier
Referee- K Stroud