JAMES Hayter failed to halt the Cherries juggernaut and then backed old pal Eddie Howe to keep his men on track for League One glory.

Former Dean Court favourite Hayter tipped Howe to lead the Dorset outfit to at least a play-off place after witnessing first-hand the club’s remarkable transformation.

Glovers star Hayter, who received a warm reception on his return, could not stop Cherries registering a 14th match unbeaten as his Yeovil team suffered a 3-0 Boxing Day defeat.

Goals from striker Lewis Grabban and midfielder Harry Arter came before Brett Pitman converted a late penalty to seal Cherries’ latest victory in front of the club’s biggest home crowd of the season.

The win saw Cherries edge ever closer to the business end of the table – with Howe’s team now just one point adrift of sixth-placed MK Dons.

And Hayter, who scored 94 goals in 358 league appearances for Cherries, believes they are perfectly poised to launch a strong challenge in 2013.

The former Doncaster frontman told the Daily Echo: “Eddie has done unbelievably well. He did unbelievably well here before he left and his record must be second to none.

“He has got the players firing. It is basically the same squad that was here before but he has got them all playing a bit more attacking football than they were before.

“With the squad they have got and with Eddie as manager – and it wouldn’t surprise me if they strengthened again in January with the funds that are available now – I think they will at least be in the play-offs, if not pushing for those automatic places.”

Hayter, who is fourth on Cherries’ list of all-time leading scorers in the Football League, thinks Pitman will prove a big asset to the club’s promotion charge in the new year.

He said: “When I was here, Brett was breaking through and he was a prolific goalscorer in the youth team and reserves.

“He has gone on and had a good career so far. I don’t think it quite worked out for him at Bristol City but he has come back here and I thought he played well.

“If he is getting chances, which I think this Bournemouth team will make for him, I don’t see any reason why he won’t score a lot of goals.”

Hayter was impressed by the way Pitman and Grabban worked together as the duo continued to show signs of developing a fruitful partnership.

The 33-year-old added: “I thought they worked really well.

“Brett came off a little bit and played and Grabban stretches defenders. He looks quick, gets in behind defenders and stretches the play. They work well as a pair and they caused our defence quite a lot of problems at times.”