MIGHTY oaks from little acorns grow.

While it remains to be seen just how big a point this could be for Cherries, the signs so far have been encouraging.

And on the evidence of this latest showing, it would seem Eddie Howe’s thoroughbreds have what it takes to stay the course.

Fresh from securing the club’s highest finishing position in the second flight, Howe’s men have significantly upped the ante in the first 13 weeks of this season.

The bar has been raised thanks to nine wins and four draws from their first 17 league games, with eight clean sheets testament to an improvement in their resolve.

Defeated on just four occasions, Howe could justifiably claim three of those losses were ill-deserved, particularly those at home to Nottingham Forest and Leeds, while there were mitigating circumstances at Derby.

With more than a third of their Championship campaign completed, Cherries can point to having blotted their copybook only once when a calamitous 11-minute spell saw them concede three times in the first half at Blackburn.

Artur Boruc’s arrival on loan from Southampton has coincided with an upturn in fortunes, the Polish international yet to taste defeat in the nine games he has started. The 33-year-old has kept six of the eight clean sheets and been beaten on just four occasions.

Every team, according to the sceptics, will have a blip at some stage in the season. Cherries followers will hope theirs has been and gone with a six-match winless run between mid-August and mid-September seeing them slip from first to 15th in the table.

Howe will, of course, be mindful of how quickly the tide can turn. Just ask supporters of Nottingham Forest and Norwich City.

Heading into the last international break at the start of October, Norwich and Forest were first and second, respectively, having garnered 21 points from their first 11 games.

The pair will start this break 10th and 11th, respectively, with Forest one place below the Canaries having beaten them on Saturday.

Much has been said and written about Cherries’ remarkable rise from the depths of League Two to the Championship summit – with Howe’s men only dislodged from top spot following Derby’s crushing 5-0 win over Wolves on Saturday.

Howe has seen further improvement in the past 12 months, a point he was keen to make after Cherries had shared the spoils from a 0-0 draw at the Riverside.

“It was a big clean sheet,” he said. “We came under a bit of early pressure and the crowd really got behind Middlesbrough. This time last season, potentially, we would have conceded.

“There was a spell last season when we went away from home and weren’t as solid as we wanted to be. We came here and conceded three and, if you were to compare the two games, I think you would see how far the players have come.

“It is going to be so important we remain solid at the back and keep clean sheets because, with our attacking players, we will always create chances.”

Birthday boy Yann Kermorgant was drafted in as Howe made one change following the midweek win at Sheffield Wednesday, the first time in six league games that the starting line-up had altered.

The teams exchanged tame efforts in the opening skirmishes with Boruc falling to his left to pouch Lee Tomlin’s drive and Matt Ritchie firing a volley straight down Boro goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos’s throat.

However, as the contest began to hot up, so did the ferocity of the shooting with Adam Reach’s 25-yard ripsnorter thumping against the crossbar with Boruc, for once, seemingly beaten.

And after Tomlin had again weaved his way through and seen his strike deflected for a corner, Konstantopoulos showed razor-sharp reactions to push Ritchie’s thunderous drive over the crossbar.

Having weathered a brief early storm, Cherries began to gain a foothold and Harry Arter was unfortunate to see his fiercely-struck 20-yarder fly narrowly over the crossbar.

The second half was a case of what might have been for Cherries and the tone was set when Callum Wilson clipped a chance over the crossbar after the ball had ricocheted to him eight yards out.

Wilson was unable to make contact with Marc Pugh’s hanging cross before an inviting centre from Charlie Daniels rolled agonisingly out of the striker’s reach. On another day, October’s player of the month could have had a hat-trick.

Pugh knew he should have done better when he blazed a good chance over the crossbar, the winger’s reaction one of disappointment at not testing Konstantopoulos.

Boro offered little in the way of goal threat throughout the second half and a succession of aimless through balls were dealt with comfortably by the Cherries defence.

To their credit, neither team opted to shut up shop with a draw probably the right result as Cherries’ attack, one of the most potent in the country, was blunted by the meanest defence in the Championship.