JONATHAN Woodgate heaped praise on "magnificent" midfielder Jefferson Lerma, describing him as "vital" to Cherries' chances of success.

Lerma was one of five key players left as unused substitutes for Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Wycombe Wanderers, as boss Woodgate looks to keep his squad fresh for the upcoming play-offs.

Adam Smith, Philip Billing, Arnaut Danjuma and Dominic Solanke were also unused at Adams Park.

Lerma has once again proved to be a key cog for Cherries this term.

The Colombia international has featured 45 times in league and cup, including starting every match in which he's been available since Woodgate took the reins in February, until last weekend.

The 26-year-old, who joined Cherries from Levante for £25million in 2018, has now played more than 100 times for the club.

He has netted three key goals this season, all in victories, most recently the 3-1 triumph against Middlesbrough last month, a side who were also chasing a play-off spot at the time.

"I don’t judge Jeff on goals. You know how I feel about Jeff. I’m his biggest fan," said boss Woodgate.

"I think he’s unbelievable. If I can describe a six to anyone, he’s my favourite. He’s a six and he’s magnificent.

"He gives you absolutely everything every single game. Heads it, runs, tackles, passes. He’s a special player for me."

Woodgate's heaviest defeat in charge came in the FA Cup quarter-final against Southampton, when the Saints ran out comfortable 3-0 winners, a game in which Lerma was suspended.

And the Cherries head coach says that showed just how important Lerma is to the side.

"He’s vital," said Woodgate.

"You see what happened against Southampton (without him). Put Jeff in that team, it’s a different team."

A big part of Lerma's game is his ability to break up play from midfield.

But that has got him in trouble on numerous occasions, picking up 36 yellow cards and two reds since arriving in England.

However, his disciplinary record has improved since Woodgate became boss.

"He’s going to get that playing as a six," insisted Woodgate when asked about the Colombian's habit of picking up cards.

"You do try and look at that and you don’t want to take that fire out of his game, but just to make sensible fouls.

"You don’t always need to dive in. You’re harder to beat when you stay on your feet and close someone down. So I’m pleased for Jeff."