MANAGER Eddie Howe believes Cherries' League One rivals Crawley Town can challenge for a top-six spot.
Howe gave his verdict on Crawley as he previewed Cherries’ clash with the Reds at Dean Court on Saturday (3pm).
Cherries are being widely tipped to launch a bid for third tier honours after going 14 matches unbeaten since Howe’s appointment.
Richie Barker’s men are in decent form themselves having registered their second win in three games with a 2-1 victory at Pompey on Boxing Day.
And boss Howe is tipping Crawley, who are level on points with Cherries just one adrift of the play-off zone, to push on in the new year.
Howe told the Daily Echo: “They had a very strong start where they were right up in contention.
“In the past three games, they have got a couple of really good wins which have put them right back up there.
“They had a strange summer in a sense that Sean (O’Driscoll) went in there for a short period of time and now Richie has come in and he has certainly put his own stamp on the team.
“They are progressing nicely so I would definitely view them as a rival for the top six. They are definitely a team capable of making it in there.
“They have got some strong players so it will be another good examination for us at home.”
Howe reported one fresh injury concern ahead of the match with midfielder Harry Arter rated “doubtful” due to an ankle problem. Crawley, meanwhile, will be without the suspended Hope Akpan.
Cherries: (from) James, Francis, Cook, Elphick, Daniels, Fogden, McQuoid, Arter, O’Kane, Pugh, Pitman, McDermott, Grabban, Hughes, Tubbs, Fletcher, Partington, Zubar, Demouge, Davids, Jalal.
Crawley: (from) P Jones, Sadler, Hunt, Davis, Connolly, Simpson, M Jones, Adams, Alexander, Clarke, Cooper, Bulman, Walsh, Ajose, Torres, Akinde, Clifford, Kuipers.