CHERRIES boss Eddie Howe presided over a record-breaking seventh away win in the second flight and then praised his players for the “consistency of their performances”.

Lewis Grabban’s double, his second from the penalty spot, coupled with goals from Matt Ritchie and Ian Harte earned Cherries a 4-2 victory at Birmingham City.

It saw Cherries cap a memorable March during which Howe’s men have closed the gap on the play-off places from 14 to five points thanks to six wins and a draw from eight games.

Cherries have seven games remaining and will be looking to make further inroads when they host fellow promotion hopefuls QPR on Saturday and Reading a week tomorrow.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “When you are in good form and confident, you believe you can win any game and it certainly helps when they come thick and fast. We have faced some big challenges on the road during what has been a hectic period and full credit to the players for the consistency of their performances because they have had to go again and again.”

Ritchie opened the scoring when he bagged his sixth goal of the season with a cushioned volley after 13 minutes before Grabban’s tap-in from a Marc Pugh cross made it 2-0.

Cherries, who had raced into a 3-0 lead after 28 minutes during the midweek win over Leeds, repeated the feat when Grabban netted from the spot after he had been upended by Blues goalkeeper Darren Randolph.

Harte recorded his first goal for the club with an absolute beauty early in the second half, his rasping left-foot strike from the edge of the box whistling past Randolph.

And although Manchester United loan star Federico Macheda grabbed a second-half double to reduce the arrears, Cherries defended stoutly to make it 19 points from a possible 24 during a fruitful month.

Howe added: “It was a great first-half performance and we looked a real goal threat. We counter-attacked really well throughout the game. We were well on top and well in control and dominated a decent side.

“Birmingham were a Premier League club just three years ago so we were pleased to turn them over so convincingly. We thought the fourth goal would have put the game to bed but, fair play to Birmingham, because they showed good character to keep going and we had to defend well to see out the game after they had scored twice.”