MANAGER Eddie Howe reflected on Cherries’ rapid rate of progress since his Dean Court comeback and confessed: “It has surprised us.”

Howe has been taken aback at his team’s remarkable revival since he left his post at Burnley to complete a fairytale return to Dorset.

The midweek win over Shrewsbury extended to six Cherries’ unbeaten run and saw them rise to within six points of the play-off places.

Following this upturn in fortunes and a flurry of goals, bookmakers have slashed the odds on Cherries gaining promotion from League One.

And Howe, who highlighted Cherries’ growing confidence and team spirit, admits the speed with which they have transformed their fortunes has left him pleasantly surprised.

He told the Daily Echo: “It has surprised us how well the lads have performed, I have to say. In the majority of the games, we have been excellent.

“I think we have a really good squad and a really good team so I am really pleased at this stage.

“If you would have told me when I first came in that this would have been our points return, I would have certainly taken it. Now, we can only look forward with enthusiasm.”

After succeeding Groves, Howe made no secret of his desire to see Cherries adopt a quicker tempo and a more positive approach.

This has so far seen them score no fewer than 16 goals in his five matches in the dugout.

Cherries will be hoping to maintain that form when they visit League One rivals Doncaster Rovers this afternoon (3pm).

“I think we have made really good strides,” added Howe. “The lads have knitted together with a really good team spirit and a good mentality. There are some really good leaders within the group that are pushing things along nicely off the pitch.

“On the pitch, some of our football has been excellent. I think we are getting more progressive and more threatening as time goes on.

“I see a confidence now within the team, during games, that perhaps wasn’t there a few weeks ago so we are moving in the right direction.

“We are well aware that it is still very early days. We have been on a good run, we want to keep that going for as long as we can, but somewhere along the line there will be a setback or two and we will have to handle that when it comes.”