RIGHT-BACK Simon Francis is adamant that Cherries remain a major player in the Championship play-off race despite dropping points at rivals Ipswich.

The 2-2 draw at Portman Road meant that Cherries were three points off the top six prior to last night’s clash between Reading and Middlesbrough.

Although Eddie Howe’s men do not have their play-off fate in their hands heading into the final two games against Nottingham Forest and Millwall, Francis insists the battle is not over.

He told the Daily Echo: “There’s two big games left and it’s all to play for. Outsiders probably won’t think we’re in with a chance, they haven’t done all season, but we certainly do.

“They are two massive games and two winnable games.

“We have to take six points and hope a couple of teams slip up, but no one’s guaranteed to win games as we saw on Saturday when Brighton drew 1-1 against Blackpool, which you would have thought was almost a banker for them to win at home. But they didn’t and it’s still on.

“The gaffer’s been saying for the past couple of games, ‘don’t make it the biggest regret of the season’.”

Francis, 29, captained Cherries against the Tractor Boys as regular skipper Tommy Elphick was named on the bench due to concerns over a back injury, with Elliott Ward selected in his place.

That was one of two changes made by boss Eddie Howe with Charlie Daniels replacing the experienced Ian Harte at left-back, resulting in a defence that last played as a collective four on November 9.

“I thought we kept a good line and Chaz and Wardy came in and did well,” added Francis, who has played every minute of Cherries’ Championship campaign.

“That said, we’ve let in too many goals recently and I hold my hands up for a couple of them as it’s not good enough.

“For the first goal against Ipswich my man got in behind me at the back post and scored which was disappointing on my behalf.

“We showed great character to come back, not once but twice and in the end they were panicking a little bit and on the back foot.

“I thought we did enough to win the game so we were disappointed with the result. We kept the ball and dominated but maybe the luck wasn’t with us like it has been over the past couple of months.”