MANAGER Eddie Howe believes consistency will hold the key to Cherries' promotion challenge in a keenly-contested League One.

Ten points separate 11th-placed Cherries and leaders Tranmere after the Dorset outfit's fine form under Howe saw them close in on the top.

Unbeaten since Howe's return, Cherries are within four points of the play-off zone and trail tomorrow night's high-flying opponents Stevenage by just five.

Asked for his take on League One this season, Howe told the Daily Echo: “I think it is very tight.

“There is a whole cluster of teams, probably us included, in the mix who will feel they have got a chance.

“I think it is now all about who goes on a consistent run. Christmas will be a big period, as it is with every division, with a lot of games in a short space of time. Hopefully, we can be in the mix.”

Fifth-placed Stevenage went 11 games without defeat at the start of the campaign but visit Goldsands Stadium tomorrow (7.45pm) on the back of 4-1 defeats against Preston and Sheffield United.

However, boss Howe is expecting Gary Smith's men to pose a “big test”.

He added: “They are a good side who have done really well this season. We know it is going to be a difficult game.”

Howe's assistant Jason Tindall today reported no serious injury concerns ahead of the clash. Striker Frank Demouge is expected to return to training this week after sustaining a calf knock in a reserve game last Tuesday.

Tindall told the Daily Echo: “Stevenage are a tough outfit to play against. They are physically strong and they have good pace about them.

“It is going to be a really difficult game for us and we need to make sure we are 100 per cent focused for what is going to be probably one of our toughest games this season.”

Cherries: (from) James, Francis, Addison, Elphick, Daniels, McQuoid, MacDonald, Arter, O'Kane, Pugh, McDermott, Barnard, Grabban, Fogden, Fletcher, Tubbs, Cook, Thomas, Jalal.

Stevenage: (from) Arnold, Gray, Hills, Roberts, Charles, Risser, Dunne, Grant, Tansey, Freeman, Akins, Haber, Agyemang, N'Gala, Comminges, Shroot, Day (g/k).

  • Four first-team squad members are expected to feature when a Cherries development/reserve side visits Peterborough United reserves tomorrow afternoon. Central defender Stephane Zubar and midfielders Joe Partington, Lorenzo Davids and Mark Molesley are all set to gain valuable game-time.