CHERRIES boss Eddie Howe has hailed Brett Pitman as “one of the best finishers I have worked with” - and has challenged him to score more poacher’s goals.

Pitman bagged a third career hat-trick – two penalties and a close-range effort – to fire Cherries to victory over League One rivals Crewe on Saturday.

The striker, who turns 25 on Thursday, became Howe’s first signing of his second spell when he rejoined Cherries, initially on loan, from Bristol City in November.

A product of the club’s youth ranks, Pitman has flourished under Howe’s tutelage, his 26 goals helping Cherries to promotion from League Two in 2009-10.

The only ever-present as Cherries memorably beat the odds to return to the third flight, Pitman missed just two league games during Howe’s first stint as manager.

His treble against Crewe took his tally to seven in nine games since he came back – with Pitman having scored 49 times in 80 league appearances under Howe.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, Howe said: “Brett’s goalscoring record is up there with the best of them. Even though two of his goals against Crewe were penalties, he still needed to be in the right place to score the second one. We want to see him score more goals inside the six-yard box.

“He has done well to score seven goals since he came back but I think there is more to come from him. He is a very good player, he can do certain things that other players can’t and, with more games, he will only get better.”

Pitman responded in style after being recalled against Crewe having been dropped to the bench for tactical reasons for Cherries’ clash at Hartlepool.

Howe added: “He is the type of character who is desperate to play every game, as most players are. He was disappointed but showed a great attitude. We have left him out a couple of times because we have tweaked our system.

“His response, in terms of demeanour and how you act as a substitute, was very pleasing and he thought of the team. We always pick a team to try to win the game, regardless of personnel. We will choose different systems for different games.

“We went with three in midfield at Hartlepool and it meant there was no place for Brett. But he responded in the best way by scoring a hat-trick and is a team player. I don’t think we have seen the best of him yet.”

Pitman, whose move was made permanent earlier this month, said: “I know there are reasons for me not playing. I was rested for the FA Cup game against Wigan and was left out against Hartlepool due to formations and tactics. Three games in eight days would have been difficult because I haven’t played many times.

“I am getting fitter with every game but still feel like I have got a bit to go.

“We have probably got 20 players who all expect to play and the quality is the best it has ever been here and, hopefully, we can get to the next level.”