POSITIVE boss Eddie Howe has backed Benik Afobe to end his eight-month barren spell and return to the goalscoring trail.

The former Wolves frontman last found the net for Cherries in a 2-0 Premier League victory over Southampton at the beginning of March.

Brought on to replace Jordon Ibe for the second half of Saturday's 2-1 home loss to Sunderland, Afobe twice fired presentable chances off target as he attempted to open his account for the season, before expertly teeing up Joshua King for a fizzing strike which goalkeeper Jordan Pickford palmed brilliantly to safety.

Afobe's close calls in front of goal summed up a frustrating day for Cherries, who dominated possession and chances but could not take victory.

However, Howe reckons the striker – who prior to Saturday had played fewer than 45 minutes of league football this campaign – will soon rediscover the scoring feeling. And the Cherries manager said the January recruit had done his chances of featuring the power of good with an exemplary attitude in training.

Howe told the Daily Echo: "Benik deserved his opportunity, he has trained very well.

"I thought he did well when he came on against Middlesbrough and you were just willing him to hit the net against Sunderland. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.

"I think every striker needs to feel that confidence you get from scoring goals. It won't be far away for him if he continues to work as hard as he has in training.

"That's the challenge for him. He has impressed me in training and has shown a great attitude to his work despite not featuring regularly."

Afobe joined Cherries in January for a then club-record fee of around £9million and made an explosive start to his career at Vitality Stadium.

Having made his debut in a 3-1 home defeat to West Ham United, the ex-Arsenal youngster scored in three consecutive games, registering against Norwich City, Sunderland and Crystal Palace.

And although he endeared himself further to the Cherries faithful by netting against rivals Southampton, that was to be his last goal of the season, the former England youth international starting just four of the final 10 top flight games.

The form of Callum Wilson has restricted Afobe's chances this term with the 23-year-old seeing just 14 minutes of league action prior to the trip to Middlesbrough.

However, Afobe was given the final half an hour to impress in the 2-0 defeat on Teesside and immediately fashioned a goalscoring opportunity, only to be denied by a smart stop by goalkeeper Victor Valdes.

The striker later strained to head an Adam Smith free-kick onto the top of the bar but it was not to be his day.

Afobe featured for England in a number of age group teams but could be on the brink of earning his first senior international cap for DR Congo.

The Leopards are due to play a World Cup qualifier in Guinea on Sunday. Afobe has previously trained with Congo and is eligible to play through his parents, who fled the African nation to escape civil war in the late 1980s.