(Reuters) - Bournemouth captain Simon Francis’ return to fitness is a massive boost for the south coast club as they look to extend a run of two straight Premier League victories, manager Eddie Howe said on Friday.
Francis, who overcame a knee injury that kept him out for nine months, played his first game of the season in Wednesday’s 2-0 defeat by Burton Albion in the League Cup.
Howe said he was also pleased to give defender Lloyd Kelly and winger Arnaut Danjuma their first minutes of the campaign.
“Having our captain back is a huge lift for everyone and the two players we signed in the summer we have high hopes for,” Howe told a news conference.
“We still have two or three to come back to make us even better.”
Howe’s side are sixth in the league having won their last two games against Everton and Southampton and face another top flight team humbled by League One opposition during midweek, following West Ham’s 4-0 defeat at Oxford United.
Bournemouth are unbeaten in their last five league meetings with West Ham, winning both games last season but Howe is not taking Manuel Pellegrini’s men lightly.
“Our game against West Ham last season was very early in the manager’s reign there and he was still implementing his ideas,” Howe said.
Fifth-placed West Ham have lost only once in six league games to sit a place above Bournemouth and defeated Manchester United 2-0 last weekend.
“Their general performances have been strong... we’d like to win three in a row, the first time we’ve done that in a while and that’s a huge incentive for us,” Howe said.
Reporting by Shrivathsa Sridhar in Bengaluru; editing by Amlan Chakraborty