CHERRIES boss Eddie Howe has described the manic month of March as “a really important spell for us”.

Howe’s men tomorrow kick-off a punishing schedule of no fewer than eight games in 29 days when they host Doncaster Rovers at Dean Court (3pm).

It is the first of six matches against teams in the bottom half of the Championship for 17th-placed Cherries, who are currently nine points above the drop zone.

Four of the other five are on the road at Blackpool (18th), Charlton (22nd), Barnsley (23rd) and Birmingham (16th), while Cherries also host Middlesbrough, who are 13th.

The gruelling four-week period, which includes three midweek games, will also see Cherries visit ninth-placed Blackburn and entertain Leeds, currently 11th.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “It is a busy and really important spell for us. We have a lot of games in a short period of time and are ready for them.

“We are hopeful we will be able to keep the majority of the squad fit because that is going to be key. Hopefully, with a couple of returning players not too far away, the squad will be in good shape.

“They are going to be important games for us because a lot of them are against the teams in and around us so we need to try to get some positive results.

“Our recent performances have been good and we have been disappointed and unfortunate to only pick up two points from four games, including playing the top three. Now we are playing teams closer to us in the league and it is vital we perform and get the results to match.”

Doncaster, who are without loan striker Billy Sharp due to suspension, pipped Cherries in dramatic fashion to the League One title on the final day of last season and are currently six points worse off.

“I am expecting a tough encounter,” said Howe. “Us, Doncaster and Yeovil, who all came up, have given a really good account of ourselves to try to stabilise in this tough division.

“We back ourselves against anybody and are a confident team. On the back of what was a good performance against Derby but not matched by the result, we are looking forward to trying to put that right.”

Midfielder Eunan O’Kane, who missed the 1-0 defeat at Derby due to a hip injury, is again expected to face a late fitness test, while Howe hoped “a few niggles” for other unnamed players would clear up in time for them to be in contention.

  • Cherries’ trip to Charlton on Tuesday, March 18 may have to be rearranged should the Addicks draw their FA Cup sixth round clash at Sheffield United a week on Sunday.