CAPTAIN Tommy Elphick reckons striking the first blow could be key to solving Cherries’ long-standing clean sheet quandary on the road.

Cherries have prevented their opponents from scoring just once in their past 24 Championship matches with their only shutout away on unfamiliar territory coming at Doncaster back in August.

However, bright starts have proved the cornerstone of Cherries’ successes during their maiden voyage in the Championship with the Dean Court outfit one of only five teams yet to lose a match after scoring the first goal.

Having got their noses in front on 13 occasions, Cherries have gone on to win eight and draw five of their league fixtures on their return to the second tier.

And while Elphick admitted the wait for a morale-boosting clean sheet had been too long, the skipper believes that imperious record could aid their quest as the season progresses.

Elphick told the Daily Echo: “It’s a remarkable statistic which the lads are very aware of and it does play into our game plan.

“At this level, psychological factors come into play a lot more. It can be quite daunting going to big grounds, playing against big teams with well-known players but going one up gives you a platform to play your natural game.

“Sometimes the reputation is bigger than the club and players you’re up against and that first goal helps put that to one side and gives you the belief to go on and win.

“Personally, I prefer playing at the top stadiums in front of big crowds. Mentally, it helps me.

“Our style is fast, attacking and expansive so we do leave ourselves vulnerable at times, but once you go one up you can control things that a little bit more.”

On the lack of clean sheets, he added: “We have defended well recently and limited teams to very few chances but with the dangerous players in this division they don’t need as many opportunities to score.

“As defenders, we are very frustrated at the moment. We have been putting in a lot of work on the basics to try and rectify that record and just get a clean sheet because it is massively important.

“We leave no stone unturned in terms of analysis. The gaffer is very hot on that, looking back at clips, seeing what we can do better.

“The back four has changed quite a bit over the past four or five months with people coming in and out but we have become a bit more settled now which should help us.”