CHERRIES star Steve Cook is expected to return to action earlier than anticipated after receiving encouraging news regarding his hamstring injury.

Cook has been a key figure in Cherries’ recent Premier League purple patch but was forced off after just 13 minutes of the 2-1 win over Stoke at Vitality Stadium on Saturday.

The 26-year-old pulled up sharply after feeling discomfort in his hamstring having attempted a pass and was immediately replaced by striker Joshua King.

Boss Eddie Howe was initially concerned Cook had sustained a serious tear and could be set for an extended spell on the sidelines, compounding Cherries’ defensive worries.

However, following a scan earlier this week, Cook discovered he had only suffered minor damage and should be back sooner than had first been feared.

Cook, who played every minute of every game last season as Cherries secured ninth place in the Premier League, remains a doubt for Sunday’s trip to Huddersfield.

But providing he suffers no adverse reaction and with a free week following the visit to west Yorkshire, the defender could be back in contention when Cherries host Newcastle on February 24.

Cook has an exemplary appearance record having started all but 17 of Cherries’ 194 games in the Championship and Premier League.

Meanwhile, Adam Smith, who has missed Cherries' past two games with a thigh problem, faces a race against time to regain his fitness ahead of the trip to Huddersfield's John Smith's Stadium.

Smith has been having treatment from a specialist in London and has not trained since the problem flared up following Cherries' 1-1 draw at West Ham 18 days ago.