May 24 PLAY-OFF FINAL AFC Bournemouth 5-2 Lincoln City Att: 32148

Last updated : 31 May 2003 By Andy Burton

A pulsating 5-2 victory at the Millennium Stadium ensured that Bournemouth returned to Division Two at the first attempt, leaving Lincoln City heartbroken.

The Cherries started strongly and had the first chance of the game after just two minutes when Wade Elliott exchanged passes with James Hayter before seeing his back heeled shot blocked.

City had a number of corners in the opening stages but failed to create any chances, while at the other end poor crosses saw several Bournemouth moves break down.

Spectators had to wait until the 26th minute for the next chance with Stephen Purches curling a shot narrowly wide of the Red Imps goal.

But three minutes later the Cherries took a deserved lead when Steve Fletcher latched on to a Marcus Browning knockdown and rifled the ball past Alan Marriott.

The Red Imps fought back strongly and were level after 35 minutes when giant defender Ben Futcher rose unmarked to meet a Stuart Bimson corner and headed the ball past Neil Moss in the Bournemouth goal.

The first half looked set to end level, but in stoppage time Garreth O'Connor swung in a cross to the unmarked Carl Fletcher who headed home to give the Cherries a 2-1 interval lead.

Bournemouth again started strongly in the second half and following several near misses they extended their lead after 56 minutes.

A length-of-the-field move began with Moss punching clear before Elliott combined with Hayter on the wing and centred for Purches to finish with a powerful volley.

Just four minutes later the Cherries made sure of victory with a fourth goal when O'Connor broke down the left before cutting inside and drilling a shot past Marriott.

Dene Cropper squandered two good chances to get the Red Imps back into the game before Mark Bailey finally pulled a goal back with a 75th-minute header from a Chris Cornelly cross.

But two minutes later Bournemouth skipper Carl Fletcher snuffed out any hopes of a comeback by heading his second of the game to make the score 5-2.

A deflated Lincoln side continued to push forward in search of a consolation and Paul Mayo hit the bar with a header in the closing minutes.

But the Cherries held on for a memorable victory and the sight of Carl Fletcher collecting the trophy will live long in the memory of their supporters.