EDDIE Howe defended Darren Bond after the referee had come under fire from Dean Saunders following a controversial failed Rovers penalty appeal on Saturday.

Rival managers Howe and Saunders gave differing opinions on the second-half talking point after Cherries had claimed a 1-0 victory at Doncaster.

The hosts launched vocal shouts for a spot kick when David Syers went to ground under a challenge from Charlie Daniels in the closing stages.

But Lancashire official Bond ignored the protests as Harry Arter’s 38th-minute goal helped Cherries extend to seven matches their unbeaten run.

Doncaster boss Saunders told the media: “It was a blatant penalty on David Syers, who was just about to head the ball in the net and the lad pushed him in the back. It was a blatant penalty – I have seen it again.”

Howe said: “My personal opinion was that it wasn’t a penalty but Charlie did raise his hands so I could see why there were shouts for it to be given.

“I thought the referee was strong and did well. The temptation would be to go with the home crowd and give it but my personal opinion was that I didn’t think it was.”

Saunders, meanwhile, said he felt Cherries were “trying to win the league”.

The former Wales striker said: “They have got themselves going, they are on a run and we probably played them at the wrong time.

“I thought they defended really well. They had to defend for most of the game.

“After the first 10 minutes, I thought we controlled the game, without actually making David James scramble across his goal too many times.

“I thought they defended well and kept us at bay. They have got good players and a good manager as well.”

Howe praised Steve Cook after the versatile defender had replaced injured right-back Simon Francis to join Miles Addison, Tommy Elphick and Charlie Daniels in a solid performance from the Cherries defence.

Howe said: “Our defensive record has been questioned because of the amount of goals we have conceded this season.

“But it was a really solid performance and, hopefully, that will go a long way to moving us forward defensively.

“We have been free-scoring and free-flowing and some of the football we have played at times has been excellent.

“But it was probably the first time where we have really had to batten down the hatches, in the second half, and we had to really compete, stop crosses, defend crosses and defend their long throws and set-plays.

“We did all that, we blocked holes and we made it difficult for Doncaster.

“Doncaster are a really experienced side with a lot of players who have been there at a higher level and performed really well against us.

“I thought their experience showed, in terms of them |controlling possession, but we did show a really resilient side and that pleased me more than anything.”

Meanwhile, Howe hinted that he could be forced to draft in extra cover for Francis once he has assessed the extent of his hip problem early this week.