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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 January, 2005, 16:11 GMT
Cherries treble thrills Fletcher
By Mark Mitchener

Steve Fletcher
Fletcher has had to wait 480 games to notch his first senior hat-trick

As the New Year dawned at a rain-lashed Dean Court, the sun finally shone on Bournemouth's Steve Fletcher.

The big striker saw in 2005 with a bang by finally scoring the first hat-trick of his career - after a mere 480 first-team appearances in 13 seasons on the south coast.

Fletcher described himself as "the happiest man in Bournemouth" after netting all three goals in the 3-2 win over Brentford.

But the speed of his treble was immediately compared to injured strike partner James Hayter, who recorded English football's fastest hat-trick in just 140 seconds against Wrexham last season.

"We've had a big laugh in the changing room, as we've got the quickest hat-trick ever and now the longest hat-trick ever," manager Sean O'Driscoll said.

"Steve knows he should score more, but the timing of the goals couldn't have been better - hopefully it won't be another 20-odd years before he gets his next one."

Fletcher, 32, had previously scored twice in a game on nine occasions before his moment of glory came.

He admitted: "I've scored a few 'double-baggers' in my time, but I can't even remember scoring a hat-trick in training.

"I've had a bit of banter with supporters about how I was never going to get one, but it's finally come 15 years into my career.

Steve Fletcher
Fletcher has been with Bournemouth for 13 seasons
"The first was nice as I don't get many tap-ins, the second was a diving header which I enjoyed - and when Alan Connell crossed for the third, I just jumped highest, headed it down, hoped for the best and for once, it went in.

"But the result was important, because it would have knocked a bit of shine off it if the team hadn't won."

The season of goodwill may even have affected the officials, as Fletcher escaped being cautioned for removing his shirt in celebration.

"I'd already thought 'if I get a hat-trick, I'm taking my shirt off' - I just wanted to rip it off and run round the pitch twice," he added.

"It's not a good thing to say, and the gaffer might not be happy, but I'd take a booking for that!

"Anyway, I've only ever been penalised for five yellow cards once - and I've been waiting 15 years. Thankfully I didn't get booked, although I don't know how."

And having begun 2005 on a high, another record may soon enter Fletcher's sights - as he is now just 20 League appearances short of O'Driscoll's all-time Bournemouth record of 423.

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