EDDIE Howe received a boost this week as Martin Paterson came through a behind-closed-doors game with Wigan after his thigh problem, and he could be back as soon as next Saturday’s home game with Portsmouth.
Danny Ings is also closing on a return, while Charlie Austin is also looking at the Pompey match as a target.
Howe said: “It’s a massive boost. It excites me to think of our forward line or the options we may have in a couple of weeks.
“To get Charlie and Pato back, to add to what we already have, it will give us a great front-line and great options.
It will give us the opportunity to go into different games and play different ways and have different game-plans, which we’ve been limited to really with the size of the squad we’ve had.
“Also Danny Ings saw a specialist on Wednesday and had good news, so he could step up his rehab.
“We’re looking at him coming back in early January as well. He’ll be another very good player to add back into the group we have.
“But Pato will hopefully play another game next week, and then once he’s got those minutes under his belt and comes through okay, then he’ll be looking at the Portsmouth game I’m sure.
“Charlie will hopefully train with us today fully for the first time, and if he comes through that okay, then again we’re probably looking at the Portsmouth game too.”