CHERRIES extended their unbeaten run to 14 matches with a comfortable Boxing Day win.

Lewis Grabban’s first-half strike paved the way for another home triumph, before Harry Arter’s stunning effort 17 minutes from time calmed the nerves.

Brett Pitman then made it 3-0 from the penalty spot after 85 minutes as Eddie Howe’s men closed in on the League One play-off places.

Boss Howe made one enforced change from the side that beat Colchester 1-0 on December 15, with Arter stepping in for long-term injury victim Shaun MacDonald.

Glovers striker James Hayter, meanwhile, made his first appearance at Dean Court since leaving Dorset for Doncaster in 2007.

Some neat inter-play between Pitman and Grabban almost resulted in the opening goal after just four minutes but, despite Grabban’s dangerous ball across the six-yard box, Wes Fogden was unable to connect.

At the other end, Paddy Madden should have done better when bursting clear just inside the box, but skewed his drive well wide of the target.

Grabban was then unable to get on the end of two inviting crosses from Charlie Daniels down the left, before Eunan O’Kane’s rasping volley after a quarter-of-an-hour flew narrowly over.

Grabban teed up Pitman beautifully after 22 minutes when he cut inside from the left to find the Channel Islander in space, but Pitman scuffed his shot straight into the arms of Marek Stech.

Tommy Elphick did well to clear the danger four minutes later after Jamie McAllister’s skidding shot from distance was spilled by David James, before Grabban handed Cherries the lead just after the half-hour.

The former Rotherham man was on hand to slot home his 10th goal of the season from inside the box, finishing a move that he had started by playing in Marc Pugh down the left via O’Kane. Pugh’s cut-back was behind the on-rushing Pitman, but Grabban accelerated into the box to fire beyond Stech.

Grabban could have doubled his tally less than two minutes later, but his shot from the right channel trickled wide.

Dominic Blizzard managed to find room for a shot following a goalmouth melee early in the second half, with James rooted to the spot as the Glovers man’s effort grazed his left-hand post.

Defensive confusion between Stech and Richard Hinds after 56 minutes allowed Grabban to collect the loose ball, but he was unable to capitalise as the Czech goalkeeper saved the day on behalf of the red-faced Hinds.

Stech was again on hand to keep the score at 1-0 just before the hour when he dived full stretch to keep out Pitman’s fearsome strike from just inside the box, before the Cherries youth graduate was denied by a last-ditch block moments later following neat work between Harry Arter and Grabban.

Blizzard headed on to the roof of James’s net on 70 minutes following Hayter’s pinpoint cross from the left, while Stech was equal to Marc Pugh’s speculative effort from the edge of the box as Cherries searched for a goal that would make the final 20 minutes more comfortable.

And they didn’t have to wait too much longer as Arter fired a stunning left-foot drive into the top corner after 73 minutes.

Pitman failed to get on the end of substitute Josh McQuoid’s cross moments later, before Grabban’s touch deserted him in a one-on-one with Stech.

Stech beat away Pugh’s effort after the Lancastrian had weaved his way into the box from the left channel, while Arter failed to find the target with a fizzing half-volley as the Glovers slowly wilted.

But as Cherries entered cruise control mode, Pitman was on hand to lash home from the spot five minutes from time after Luke Ayling had handled under pressure from Grabban.

Cherries: (4-4-2) James; Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels; Fogden (McQuoid, 66), Arter, O’Kane, Pugh; Pitman (McDermott, 88), Grabban (Hughes, 88).

Unused subs: Tubbs, Fletcher, Partington, Jalal (g/k).

Booked: Arter, Elphick.

Glovers: (4-4-2) Stech; Ayling, Hinds (Marsh-Brown, 66), Webster (Ugwu, 86), Burn; Williams (Reid, 51), Blizzard, Upson, McAllister; Hayter, Madden.

Unused subs: Brundle, Stewart (g/k).

Booked: Burn, Referee: Graham Scott (Oxfordshire).

Attendance: 8,016 (665 away fans).