BOSS Eddie Howe lavished praise on Cherries’ defensive heroes after watching them produce a resilient performance to defeat Doncaster Rovers 1-0 this afternoon.

Cherries registered their third clean sheet in 17 League One matches this term to move to within just five points of the play-off zone.

Harry Arter’s 38th-minute strike proved enough to extend to seven matches the Dorset outfit’s unbeaten run since Howe’s return as successor to Paul Groves.

Speaking after the victory at Keepmoat Stadium, Howe said: “Our defensive record has been questioned because of the amount of goals we have conceded this season.

“But today was a really solid performance and, hopefully, that will go a long way to moving us forward defensively.

“We have been free-scoring and free-flowing and some of the football we have played at times has been excellent.

“But today was probably the first time where we have really had to batten down the hatches, in the second half, and we had to really compete, stop crosses, defend crosses and defend their long throws and set-plays. We did all that, we blocked holes and we made it difficult for Doncaster.

“I looked through their team before the game and I think every one of their players has played in the Championship so we knew it was going to be a really good test. They are a really experienced side with a lot of players who have been there at a higher level and performed really well.

“I thought their experience showed, in terms of them controlling possession, but we did show a really resilient side and that pleased me more than anything.”

Steve Cook started at right-back for Cherries after Simon Francis had been ruled out with a hip injury. Howe confirmed he would assess the extent of the problem early next week before deciding if he needs to bring in additional cover for Francis.

Meanwhile, Howe insisted he had no intention of allowing Wes Thomas to leave on loan again amid rumoured interest from Portsmouth. Used as a second-half substitute this afternoon, the former Crawley Town frontman made his first appearance since returning from Pompey.