CHERRIES edged into the quarter-finals of the Carabao Cup after Steve Cook’s strike saw off a fightback from Championship high-fliers Norwich City.

Eddie Howe’s men equalled their best performance in the competition but their safe passage into the last eight proved hard graft.

Junior Stanislas put the hosts in front with a wonderful strike shortly before the break.

And after Onel Hernandez steered the Canaries level midway through the second half, Cook responded with a low effort within three minutes.

Boss Howe made eight changes to the side which had swept aside Fulham in the Premier League on Saturday, with captain Simon Francis, Charlie Daniels and Cook the only players to retain their places.

Before kick-off, a minute’s silence was observed in memory of those killed in the Leicester City helicopter crash, which included Foxes owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Cherries goalkeeper Artur Boruc was called upon within two minutes, the Pole pushing behind an effort from Mario Vrancic.

The hosts responded quickly, Cook’s superb cross-field pass going to Jordon Ibe, who played inside for Marc Pugh. But the former Hereford man’s pull-back was smashed off target by a disbelieving Jermain Defoe.

Striker Dennis Srbeny pulled wide after Vrancic had broken dangerously, while Ibe fizzed a yard over at the other end.

And Felix Passlack fired narrowly past the upright as the theme of half-chances continued.

The game then went off the boil until six minutes before the break, when Cherries broke the deadlock.

Defoe controlled Diego Rico’s pass with his chest and swung the ball to Stanislas on the left side of the box. With effortless ease, the ex-Burnley man jinked away from Alex Tettey and picked out the top-right corner of the net with a tremendous strike.

Norwich should have been level within moments. Vrancic slid through for Srbeny but with the goal at his mercy, the German blasted against the frame of Boruc.

The Canaries spurned another glorious chance seconds before the interval, Srbeny firing against the inside of the post from Hernandez’s through ball. Cherries were forced to clear off the line from the resultant corner.

Following the resumption, Stanislas stroked a free-kick against the wall from a presentable position.

Another quiet period followed until just after the hour, when Passlack pinged clear of the bar after Vrancic’s corner had only been half-dealt with.

Vrancic whipped a curling effort into Boruc’s grateful arms and the ex-Celtic stopper pushed Hernandez’s rasping drive against the post.

Norwich finally got their reward when Tom Trybull’s scooped pass over a congested backline was shepherded away from Cook by Hernandez and the winger coolly slid past Boruc.

But the teams were level for just three minutes. Stanislas’s corner fell to Pugh and his shot was blocked by Vrancic. The ball bounced to Cook, who lashed low into the net despite the efforts of Passlack on the line.

Stanislas curled high and wide from Rico’s corner before Norwich turned up the pressure late on.

But Cherries, who saw Francis forced off injured, held firm with Hernandez spurning a late opportunity before Rhodes inexplicably headed wide from six yards out.


Cherries (3-4-3): Boruc; Francis (Simpson, 86), S Cook, Daniels; Ibe (Fraser, 62), Gosling, Surman, Rico; Pugh, Defoe (Wilson, 71), Stanislas.

Unused subs: Taylor, Ofoborh, Mousset, Travers (g/k).

Booked: Rico.

Norwich (4-2-3-1): McGovern; Pinto (Buendia, 68), Godfrey, Zimmermann, Lewis; Trybull (Pukki, 83), Tettey; Passlack (Rhodes, 87), Vrancic, Hernandez; Srbeny.

Unused subs: Leitner, Klose, Aarons, Krul (g/k).

Booked: Zimmermann.

Referee: Lee Mason (Lancashire).