ADAM Smith insists Cherries are in the thick of a Premier League relegation battle and must reach the 40-point mark "as quickly as possible".

Eddie Howe's team embarked on a five-match unbeaten run to drag themselves out of the mire before losing successive games to top-two Chelsea and Tottenham.

Cherries are seven points clear of 18th-placed Swansea City, with five games to play, but defender Smith says it is imperative they return to winning ways when they host Middlesbrough on Saturday.

He told the Daily Echo: "We are absolutely in a relegation fight, we have to get to 40 points, at least.

"Everyone at the club knows that and we will be working hard to get there as quickly as possible in the next few games.

"We were happy with the draws at Manchester United and Liverpool. Even at Southampton, it was a really good point.

"So we have done alright recently and there are plenty of positive things we can take from this run.

"Our past three games have all been against tough teams but we have to look forward to the next five now. They are all big for us and we have to get some wins."

Smith has his fingers crossed the foot injury he sustained in the 4-0 defeat at former stomping ground White Hart Lane will not sideline him for any of Cherries' run-in.

A series of consistently excellent displays saw the right-back placed on standby when England boss Gareth Southgate selected his squad for fixtures with Scotland and Spain in November.

The 25-year-old, though, admitted his form dipped after the turn of the year, before he got back in the groove as his side's fortunes picked up from the beginning of March.

Nevertheless, the ex-Tottenham player acknowledged he had a tough time of it at his old club on Saturday.

"I have been playing better since we started our unbeaten run," said Smith. "I have been working well with Wee Man (Ryan Fraser) and have felt better.

"I didn’t feel great in the game at Spurs once I was injured but, hopefully, next week, I will be able to keep going.

"I was brought up at Tottenham so it was nice to go back. But we have to hold our hands up and admit they were too good for us.

"In possession, they have players everywhere. I found myself in situations where I had a player on my left, another one to my right and someone in front of me. They cover the ground so well.

"And when they lose the ball, they have players like Mousa Dembele who don’t give you a yard. It is just relentless really, non-stop.

"You hardly get the ball then, when you do, you don't have a lot of options. They are all over you. It is very draining, mentally and physically.

"Chelsea are a great team but I think Tottenham are the best side in the league by far."