HARRY Arter’s first-half strike proved enough to help Cherries maintain their superb unbeaten run against Doncaster Rovers this afternoon.
In a hard-working and solid team display, Arter’s third goal of the season handed Cherries a well-earned 1-0 victory at Keepmoat Stadium.
Towards the end of an even first half, Iain Hume fired wide with a rare good opportunity for the hosts.
And Rovers then paid the ultimate price when Cherries’ star midfielder beat home keeper Gary Woods after trying his luck from 20 yards.
Josh McQuoid saw a free-kick saved after the break while Hume tested David James from distance.
But Cherries, who produced arguably their best defensive display of the season, held on with few problems to make it seven matches without defeat since Eddie Howe’s inspired appointment.
Cherries boss Howe was forced into one change with Steve Cook drafted in at right-back for hip-injury victim Simon Francis. Wes Thomas, recently recalled from Portsmouth, recovered from a hamstring problem to earn a place on the bench.
The visitors, cheered on by a healthy travelling contingent from Dorset, started brightly.
Utilising width to stretch the Rovers backline, Cherries looked comfortable in possession and McQuoid was a particularly lively performer.
Lewis Grabban warmed the hands of Woods with an ambitious volley from 35 yards before the Rovers keeper was relieved to see Charlie Daniels’s curling free-kick fly narrowly wide.
A well-timed intervention from the impressive Cook did enough to put off Billy Paynter with the Doncaster striker poised for a free header from David Cotterill’s dangerous right-wing delivery.
The busy Hume fired a snapshot over from a tight angle before smart goalkeeping from James saw him quickly off his line to intercept Chris Brown’s knockdown ahead of the onrushing Paynter.
With Rovers now settled and looking more assured, the best chance of the half fell to Hume. James Husband got in behind Cherries down the hosts’ left flank before picking out an unmarked Hume, who failed to hit the target with a curling effort on the turn.
And that proved a costly missed opportunity when Cherries took the lead on 38 minutes. The goal owed much to the persistence of Arter and also to questionable goalkeeping from Woods.
Having shrugged off a weak challenge 25 yards from goal, Arter opted to try his luck from the edge of a penalty area, with little else on. The playmaker was rewarded when his left-footed effort rolled agonisingly beyond Woods and in off the far post, with the keeper appearing slow to get down.
That knocked Rovers, who had been threatening to gain the upper hand, and Cherries saw out the remainder of the half with no alarm.
Hume headed over an early free-kick after the break after Daniels had been deemed, somewhat harshly, to have obstructed Cotterill.
Arter’s accuracy deserted him when his sweet right-foot drive failed to test home stopper Woods, who then saved well from McQuoid’s nicely-struck free-kick.
Howe opted for fresh legs by introducing Thomas for McQuoid, with Lee Barnard operating in a deeper role as Cherries were made to work increasingly hard to protect their lead.
James comfortably gathered Hume’s powerful 20-yarder before referee Darren Bond waved away Rovers’ appeals for a penalty after David Syers had gone to ground.
At the other end, Thomas lashed a shot into the side netting after a decent spell of pressure from Cherries.
For all Rovers’ possession, they found themselves restricted to shots from range, with James rarely called into serious action.
And solid Cherries comfortably answered the questions the hosts posed to ensure their excellent run continued.
Rovers: (4-4-2) G Woods; Griffin, Quinn, Spurr, Husband; Cotterill (Syers, 69), Harper, Clingan, Hume; Paynter (Blake, 79), Brown. Unused subs: Martin Woods, Michael Woods, Wakefield, Keegan, Sullivan (g/k).
Cherries: (4-4-2) James; Cook, Addison, Elphick, Daniels; McQuoid (Thomas, 71), Arter, MacDonald, Pugh; Grabban (Fletcher, 90), Barnard (Fogden, 79). Unused subs: Tubbs, McDermott, O’Kane, Jalal (g/k).
Referee: Darren Bond (Lancashire)
Attendance: 5,951 (including 343 away supporters)