CHERRIES star Steve Cook is determined to keep playing through the pain barrier and may have to don a Zorro-style mask to protect his broken nose.

Defender Cook suffered the fracture during an aerial clash with Chris Martin in Cherries’ controversial defeat at Derby 13 days ago.

And although the 22-year-old has been told he is likely to require surgery, Cook is desperate to delay going under the knife until after the season has ended.

In the meantime, he is expected to wear a protective mask and could sport it for the first time tomorrow when Cherries visit Championship rivals Blackpool.

Cook told the Daily Echo: “As I went to head the ball back to Lee Camp, Martin caught me with either his head or his elbow and, as soon as it happened, I knew it was broken. It turned out he had been offside so I hadn’t needed to go up for the header, which was frustrating.

“The doctor put it back in as much as he could after the game before I went to Rome to have it looked at. They said I would have to have an operation and would be out for a month. There was no way I was going to miss a month and it was an easy decision.

“It isn’t too bad and I think getting hit on it a couple of times against Doncaster helped straighten it out a bit! Yann Kermorgant caught me when he came over the top as we celebrated Harry Arter’s first goal and one of their centre-backs caught me again when we went up for a header for the fifth goal.”

Cook, who missed eight games due to a hamstring problem over the festive period, replaced knee injury victim Elliott Ward at Bolton last month and has forged a solid partnership with skipper Tommy Elphick.

He added: “I had never broken my nose and, the day before it happened, I was having a laugh with the manager saying how my face was in good condition so I think I tempted fate.

“I have been in the wars recently and had four stitches in my shin after taking a knock in training. Things have been pretty competitive in training and I think it has shown on the pitch because we have been fighting for each other and putting our bodies on the line. Hopefully, we can build on the Doncaster clean sheet at Blackpool.

“The mask is being custom-made in Italy and should be sent over before the game. It will be strange and I am not particularly looking forward to wearing it.

"I didn’t wear one against Doncaster because I thought I was going to have an operation so it wouldn’t have mattered if I had damaged it any more. Now I am not having surgery, I don’t want to get hit and make it worse so will wear it for a few weeks until it heals.”