BOSS Eddie Howe has highlighted the “importance” of Matt Tubbs to Cherries’ promotion push and insists the striker will have a major role to play during the run-in.

Howe believes Tubbs’ presence on the bench has been a key factor in strike pairing Lewis Grabban and Brett Pitman delivering the goods for Cherries this season.

But while the 28-year-old may have been used sparingly since Howe’s return in October, the Cherries boss believes Tubbs could soon be rewarded for his patience.

Tubbs has netted four times in 21 league appearances this season but has been restricted to only three starts – at home to Brentford and away to Swindon and Bury.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “Matt is a very good player. From a personal point of view, he has been unfortunate that Lewis and Brett have performed so well. We are the leading scorers in the division so, from our perspective, we haven’t wanted to change too much.

“What we do know is that if they are not performing, we have a quality player like Matt ready to take their place so I think that is keeping them sharp and motivated to perform at the level they are.

“I would have no qualms about playing Matt. I know he will score goals because his career record shows that. He has displayed a really good attitude to not being in the side. He has shown support for his team-mates and, whenever, he has come on, he has always looked like scoring.

“Matt may well have a big part to play in our run-in and could be the man we look to in the closing few games. He needs to keep himself in the best physical shape to take the chance when it comes and I know he will.”

Leading goalscorer Grabban has netted 13 times this season, including 12 in 20 under Howe, while Pitman has plundered nine in 12 league games since rejoining from Bristol City in November.

Howe added: “It is an area where we have good numbers but also where players have stayed fit and kept performing. If Matt played in a different position, no doubt he would have played more. He just needs to remain patient because I am sure he will get his chance.

“He is level headed and very focused and professional. It has been a hallmark of all the players who have been out of the team and they have all been very dedicated.

“Matt is similar to Brett and, when he plays, he will always get chances. He can sense the situations and gets himself in the right positions. He is also a very good finisher.

“He may not be getting the minutes he wants but he is involved and is coming off the bench regularly. He is an important member of our squad and could have a really big bearing on things between now and the end of the season.”