DEFENDER Elliott Ward is set to miss the start of pre-season with Cherries after undergoing surgery on a knee problem.

Centre-half Ward, who signed following his release from Norwich City ahead of Cherries’ return to the Championship, is likely to miss three months after going under the knife on Tuesday.

The towering defender, 29, quickly established himself in Eddie Howe’s starting XI and missed just two of the club’s opening 15 second-tier fixtures before being plagued by injury.

Ward missed six weeks after pulling his calf muscle November’s 1-1 draw at Burnley but reclaimed his berth at the heart of Cherries’ defence and earned a new two-and-a-half year contract in January.

However, his season was further curtailed when the former Nottingham Forest loanee sustained a freak knee injury after colliding with an advertising hoarding in the home match with Leicester City in February.

Cherries’ fine form saw the defensive partnership of captain Tommy Elphick and Steve Cook keep Ward on the bench once he returned in mid-March, with his only start since coming in Easter Monday’s trip to Ipswich.

The catalogue of injury woes have limited Ward to starting half of the club’s league fixtures this season and boss Eddie Howe revealed that this latest setback would see him begin his summer preparations late.

“He (Ward) had an operation on Tuesday to deal with the damage,” Howe told the club website. “We are hopeful it’s not too ser-ious but we are looking at about 12 weeks before he returns.”