Howe defends players' efforts after form slump


Eddie Howe rejected suggestions his AFC Bournemouth side are winding down their efforts in the closing weeks of the season after losing 2-1 at Everton on Saturday.

Tom Cleverley put Roberto Martinez's side into an early lead at Goodison Park, but Marc Pugh hit back within two minutes, only for Leighton Baines to secure victory with a second-half thunderbolt.

Bournemouth have now lost five of their last six Premier League matches, but Howe insisted his players are still focused, despite securing their top-flight status.

"From our perspective, I can assure you we are training the players as hard as ever," Howe said.

"We're desperate to win, we're desperate to succeed as a group. Losing hurts, it doesn't matter who you're playing against. Our recent fixture list has been very, very tough, but we're determined to try and end the season on a high if we can.

"I thought it was an even game, I didn't think there was a lot in it between the two teams. I thought neither goalkeeper was really overly worked. We created some great chances towards the end of the game and didn't take them.

"How we've conceded two goals is a difficult one to work out from our perspective because I thought we looked solid defensively, an improvement on recent weeks, but we've still ended up conceding two."

Callum Wilson, who made his first start in seven months as he continued to step up his recovery from a serious knee injury, earned praise for his performance from Howe.

"I thought Callum did really well, he's had a long period out and we've eased him back," Howe said. 

"He was ready to start and I thought he played very well, assisted the goal and was a general threat. He had a couple of chances, but overall he can be very pleased with his comeback."

Howe also reiterated his desire to stay at Bournemouth at a time when media speculation is linking him with replacing the under-fire Martinez at Goodison Park.

"I'm absolutely committed to Bournemouth. I've said this several times," Howe said.

"While I have the relationship with the owner that I do at Bournemouth, I will be staying at the club."