STAND-in skipper Tommy Elphick believes defensive partner Steve Cook has all qualities to become a leading centre-half for Cherries.

The former Brighton duo have enjoyed a successful spell at the heart of Cherries' back four since being put together by manager Eddie Howe.

Cook, who has lined up alongside Elphick in the absence of injured captain Miles Addison, has helped Cherries register four consecutive wins.

The 21-year-old has also played his part in the Cherries defence which has recorded back-to-back clean sheets against Colchester and Yeovil.

Elphick told the Daily Echo: “Cooky was a little bit younger than me so I saw him come through at Brighton and watched him quite a bit as a kid in the youth and reserve games.

“He is an athlete and has all the attributes to be a top centre-half. As long as he keeps working hard every day and keeps doing what he is doing at the moment, he is going to have a long career.

“He got the move last year and to get that move on the strength of what he did at Brighton was impressive for him because it wasn't as if he was a first-team player.

“Someone took a gamble on him and the pressure was on him to come here and perform. From what I heard, he came here and set it alight a little bit and I think you are starting to see that again now.”

Elphick, 25, has started every match following Howe's appointment as Paul Groves's successor. That period has seen Cherries improve defensively - with five shut-outs in 14 matches compared with just two in 13 prior to that.

Elphick believes that could hold the key to Cherries' League One promotion bid.

He added: “If you are going to get out of the division, it is all well and good having good strikers but you have got to build the foundations on clean sheets. Every week, if we are conceding none or one, it is good and that is what we need.

“And with the firepower and wide players we have got in this team, we are pretty special going forward at times.

“They say the strikers win you games but your back four will get you promoted or win you titles.

“It is still early days - it is two clean sheets in a row - and we want to continue that at home against Crawley.”

Cherries will be aiming to extend their 14-match unbeaten run when they host Crawley at Dean Court today (3pm).