COMEBACK man Shaun MacDonald set his sights on providing a timely fitness boost for Cherries after pledging his long-term future to the club.

The central midfielder yesterday signed a new three-and-a-half year contract which will tie him to the Dean Court outfit until the summer of 2016.

News of MacDonald’s deal came as the Welshman reported that he was “ahead of schedule” in his fitness bid following an injury lay-off.

Cherries feared the 24-year-old would be out for up to 10 weeks after he had sustained ligament damage to his right ankle on December 15.

But the former Swansea City star, now exactly six weeks into his rehabilitation programme, is targeting a return to full training within the next fortnight.

MacDonald told the Daily Echo: “I have just got on with it, not moaned about it and taken it on the chin.

“I have worked really hard to come back fitter and stronger and I think that is, maybe, part of the reason why I am a little bit ahead of schedule.

“The physio Steve Hard, the fitness coach Dan Hodges and the treatment team have been brilliant and I should give them a mention for working me hard and getting me back to where I am already.”

In MacDonald’s absence, Eunan O’Kane has produced a series of fine performances, with Richard Hughes also playing his part alongside Harry Arter in the Cherries engine room.

MacDonald said: “The most important thing is to make sure it is right and get it 100 per cent so that if I get a call-up, I am in the right frame of mind to come in and do a good job again.

“I don’t expect to come straight back into the team because we have got a great team and some great players, who have come into the team since I have been out and done really well.

“When I am back fit, hopefully I will eventually be able to get back in the team and I believe in my ability and character to do that.”

MacDonald, whose contract had been set to expire at the end of this season, has scored four goals in 46 appearances since joining Cherries for £80,000 from hometown club Swansea City in August 2011.

Discussing his new deal, MacDonald added: “It is a great place to live, the fans have been unbelievable and they deserve a lot of credit.

“The manager and Jason (Tindall, assistant boss) coming back is a massive factor in me wanting to do well here.

“With the team we have got, I think we have definitely got the ability and character to match the ambition of wanting to get into the next league.

“I think about all that kind of stuff and everything matches what I want to do, so I have got no reason not to want to stay at this club.”