FELLOW striker Lee Barnard believes Cherries’ hat-trick hero Lewis Grabban is the real deal.

Grabban notched the first treble of his career as Eddie Howe’s men moved to within four points of the League One play-off zone with a 4-1 win over Oldham on Saturday.

The 24-year-old took centre stage during an impressive second-half showing and netted three times in the space of 18 minutes to put the hosts in control.

Grabban, a summer recruit from Rotherham, made an inauspicious start to his Cherries career, scoring just once in 11 appearances under previous boss Paul Groves.

However, in common with most of his team-mates, Grabban has flourished since Howe returned as boss last month, the frontman hitting five in seven games.

Loan striker Barnard, who hit 14 goals to help parent club Southampton reach the Championship in 2010-11, told the Daily Echo: “Grabs has been playing really well and it has been a pleasure to play up front with him. He is very clever, very quick and it was great to see him score a hat-trick because he deserved it. He will steal the limelight and rightly so. His finishing was excellent.

“I think he could play at a higher level because he has got everything. He is quick, strong and intelligent and he wants to learn and work hard. He has got all the attributes and, hopefully, he can play higher with Bournemouth.

“I remember scoring my first hat-trick for Southend against Orient (in 2009) and it was a great feeling. It is what strikers strive for. We want to score goals and getting a hat-trick is a dream come true. Hopefully, there will be more to come from him.”

Grabban scored twice in as many minutes when he diverted Harry Arter’s miscued shot past Oldham goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis before applying a neat finish to a Simon Francis cross.

And after unsuccessfully trying to claim the ball from Arter to take a 71st-minute penalty, Grabban followed up to ram home the rebound when Bouzanis could only parry the spot kick.

Cherries boss Howe told the Daily Echo: “I think Lewis is developing his all-round game. He is very athletic, he has a good touch and good technique. He has got everything the modern-day striker needs. The goals will do his confidence the world of good.

“He has worked very hard up front with Lee Barnard and they do all the ugly stuff in terms of pressing and winning back the ball high up the pitch. It was good to see him get his reward with a hat-trick.

“He had a really good season with Rotherham last season and scored a lot of goals. You could see why he moved up and he deserved the move. Hopefully, we can push him on and he can get more goals for us.”