MANAGER Eddie Howe insists improving Cherries are still a work in progress and is adamant there is “more to come” from his team.

Howe has seen Cherries climb five places to 12th in the Championship thanks to a hat-trick of victories combined with three successive clean sheets.

And while the midweek win at Blackburn should have dispelled any lingering relegation fears, a fourth triumph against Middlesbrough tomorrow could take Cherries to within touching distance of the play-off places.

Howe, who has guided Cherries to two promotions during his two spells at Dean Court, told the Daily Echo: “There are a lot of games to go and a lot of points to play for. If you looked at us against Blackburn, you wouldn’t have thought we were going to get involved in a relegation fight.

“But, football being football, you need to get the points and the wins so we will continue to keep our feet on the floor but recognise we are building nicely. We are still not the finished article and there is more to come from this team. That is our next challenge.”

Cherries, competing in the second flight for the first time since 1990, looked set to face a battle to avoid an instant return to League One when a barren run of one win in 11 games between mid-September and early December saw them slip from seventh to 19th.

The sequence had started when they surrendered a 2-0 lead and drew 3-3 at Middlesbrough where Jonathan Woodgate’s late own goal rescued a point. And after winning their first two home games, Cherries then lost five of the next eight at Dean Court.

However, since recording a morale-boosting 2-1 victory at Reading in December, Howe’s men have turned the tide, with seven wins and five draws from their past 16 games putting them on course for an intriguing climax to the season.

“We have found better ways to try to break down teams and have a few added weapons in our armoury, which, hopefully, has made us a more difficult proposition,” said Howe.

“I would like to think we have become harder to beat.”

Previewing the visit of Middlesbrough, who appointed Aitor Karanka as Tony Mowbray’s successor earlier this season, Howe said: “With the new manager, they will have no doubt changed and slightly tweaked things and it will be another good test for us. Middlesbrough are a big club with a big tradition.”