SIMON Francis believes Cherries hotshot Lewis Grabban is fast becoming the real deal as a centre-forward.

Grabban has flourished since being used predominantly as an out-and-out striker by boss Eddie Howe.

Signed from Rotherham in the summer, the Londoner arrived with a versatile reputation as a frontman and winger.

But Cherries have reaped the rewards of Howe fielding the 25-year-old through the middle in recent months.

Grabban has registered 12 goals and four assists in 27 League One appearances for the promotion-chasing outfit.

His fortunes under Howe have changed dramatically – with 11 goals coming in 18 third-flight games since Cherries changed their manager.

Team-mate Francis reckons Grabban’s game is much improved thanks to hard graft on the training ground.

The Cherries right-back said: “We do a lot of crossing and finishing and one-on-one finishing and he is really up there in terms of his finishing. I think it has improved since he first came in.

“When he first started, because he had played a lot of games out wide, he wanted to run down the channels. But now, he is making narrow runs, getting in on goal and scoring goals.

“He can play right wing but having brought in the players we have, I am not sure how much he will be needed now on the right. He will definitely be a more important player up front for us.”

Francis added: “Central defenders would love balls in the air, straight down their throats, all day long. They would even prefer balls into the striker’s chest or feet and then defend from there. But any balls that go down the sides or over the top are hard balls to defend.

“When you have a quick striker like Grabbs chasing down everything and getting to the ball in front of defenders, you are always going to be facing the goal and in a bit of trouble with Grabbs bearing down on you.

“That proved crucial against MK Dons on Saturday. He scored one and set one up and I thought he was terrific.”

Victory at stadium:mk saw Cherries close in on the automatic promotion places and Francis insists a top-two finish is now the club’s target.

The former Charlton Athletic defender said: “I would say Saturday was probably the biggest game of the season. MK Dons are going to have to do something special to catch us so we are not looking behind us any more, we are looking ahead of us at the top teams.”