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Howe: We were off our level

AFC Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe felt his side’s performance against promotion rivals Derby was below par, after a 2-2 draw last night at the Goldsands.

The Rams January loan signings proved effective, as Tom Ince and Darren Bent twice levelled for Steve McClaren’s side, after the Cherries led through two sublime goals from Matt Ritchie and Callum Wilson.

After the match, Eddie Howe said:

“We weren’t as sharp and as positive as we usually are with our passing, a little bit negative early in the game.

“With the thought that we didn’t play anywhere near as well as we can and we still didn’t get beaten, I think thats a huge positive.

“I’m not downbeat about today at all, because it’s a really good point but it’s another lesson to us that we need to be at our best and if we don’t play the best, we don’t win.”

The result shows the progression made by Bournemouth in recent months, as Eddie Howe’s side were beaten 2-0 in the reverse fixture last September, leaving them 15th with only 12 points from 10 games at the time.

“I thought we were off our level, and I think whenever we dip below our really high standards it’s been difficult for us to win games and it would’ve been great tonight to grind out an ugly 2-1 win, we would’ve been delighted with that but it wasn’t to be.” Howe added.

A late Middlesbrough resurgence saw them jump above both Derby and Bournemouth to take top spot in the Championship, but Howe feels his side are more than capable of returning to their usual form.

“I’ll back the team to come back stronger from it. I think you look at the performances of some of our players that have done so well for us on this brilliant run we’ve been on I think that for whatever reason they weren’t quite at the level they have been.

“We have very good players, i’d back them to go toe to toe with anybody. I think we’re where we are on rights.

“I think if we played anywhere near like we can I think the result would’ve been different.”

The Cherries have won only 2 of 7 games against the top six, and Howe thinks that attaining results against these teams is pivotal to their aspirations.

“The next stage for us is to really put our stamp on our rivals, teams around us. I don’t think we’ve done that well enough against the sides that are battling for the prize at the end of the season, and today would be another example of where I think we’ve fallen short.”

WIlson and Ritchie recorder their 18th and 9th respective goals this season, and the quality of the finishes pleased the Bournemouth boss.

“Yann’s (Kermorgant) ability to chest the ball into Matty’s (Ritchie) path and a superb finish from Matty with his left foot, was a really high quality moment for us. It shows the importance of Yann and his technical ability. Callum’s (Wilson) strike for the second one was right out of the top drawer.”

With Middlesbrough still to visit the Goldsands, the importance of consistent results is now more crucial than ever for Eddie Howe’s side, as only one point separates the top three sides.