FOR those whose loyalties lie with the club based at Dean Court, it is an exciting time.

As supporters exited the ground on Tuesday night, they were wearing wide grins.

Cherries had closed the gap on leaders Brighton to one point, weathered a second-half storm from Swindon and played some decent football in the process.

Yet if the gathering momentum of one of football’s most unlikely promotion pushes was not enough to set pulses racing, the emergence of the precocious talent with number 34 on his back should have done the trick for even the most pessimistic of followers.

While optimism should be tempered by the fact it is early days in his promising career, Danny Ings could not have done more to convince spectators that he possesses rich potential.

Bright with the ball and with a sharp turn of pace, he caused the Robins defence no end of problems.

Demonstrating a similar combination of skill, touch and passing range to Brett Pitman and speed to rival Josh McQuoid, Ings produced a show-stopping performance, particularly in the first half.

Although not the finished article, the 18-year-old already looks the real deal.

Asked afterwards about opening his first-team goal account, he boasted the same broad smile as many of his growing fan club.

Having come close with a number of spectacular efforts in recent weeks, Ings’s maiden strike was a tap-in, adding a snappy poacher’s instinct to his expanding CV.

“It was probably the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in football,” he admitted.

“To score my first goal for the first team meant the world to me. Hopefully, I can build on that and get more goals for the club.

“When it is your first goal, you will take anything. Whether it comes off your shin, your back, anything, just to get that first goal to kickstart you.

“I got in good positions again on Tuesday and hit the bar and the post. Hopefully, if I get a chance on Saturday, I will tuck it away.”

Demonstrating his strengths in possession and an admirable work-rate off the ball, the Winchester-born player looks determined to make a name for himself. And fast.

Almost unheard of prior to the current campaign, Ings has virtually come from nowhere.

Heavily restricted by a long-term abdominal injury, the young frontman was unable to even feature regularly for the under-18s last term.

After earning his first professional contract and embarking on a brief yet productive loan spell at Dorchester Town, Ings returned to his parent club.

With Pitman and McQuoid sold and Symes and Steve Lovell struggling with injuries, the attacking cupboard looked bare. Cherries need not have worried.

Following a false start on his senior debut at MK Dons, Ings has more than adequately stepped up to the plate, so much so that he now appears to be Lee Bradbury’s first-choice striker.

A fun, confident and lively character, he has been given the nickname Ingsaghi (after the Italian striker Filippo Inzaghi) by his team-mates, although Ings’s footballing hero is Brazilian legend Ronaldinho.

“The stuff he can do with the ball inspires me – not that I’m going to try to do all that stuff in a game,” he joked. “But now and then I like to add a cheeky trick in a game or something like that.”

Whether or not he tries to bring a touch of Samba style to Dean Court, Cherries fans have been delighted by the impact Ings has made in his attempts to follow in the footsteps of successful homegrown predecessors Sam Vokes, Pitman and McQuoid.

“The fans could have criticised me for playing the amount of games I had without scoring,” said Ings. “But on Tuesday they were behind me and it meant a lot.

“The club has had Brett Pitman, Josh McQuoid and Sam Vokes coming through.

“Sam and Josh didn’t stick around for too long. But, hopefully, I want to learn my trade here and do really well for the club.”

That will be music to the ears of supporters because, at the age of 18 and on recent evidence, Ings can only get better.