MANAGER Eddie Howe felt a “drop in standards” had led to Cherries surrendering their proud unbeaten record in League One.

Howe, who returned to the Dean Court hot-seat in October, tasted his first league defeat in 16 games as Walsall triumphed 3-1 at the Banks’s Stadium yesterday.

The Saddlers overcame the late dismissal of striker Febian Brandy and sunk Cherries courtesy of two Will Grigg penalties and a fluke goal from Sam Mantom.

Howe said: “There were a lot of talking points. We didn’t really show our true colours and it was a disappointing performance. In saying that, it was a strange game and could easily have been different. We had enough chances to have scored three or four goals but it wasn’t to be and the penalties were disappointing. If we had defended better, I think we would have won.

“We lost our way after they had gone down to 10 men and I thought our management of the game was very poor. It was difficult watching because we are a lot better than that and have shown we are a lot better. For whatever reason, we were below standard.

“Right from the start, you could tell it wasn’t the normal Bournemouth that had turned up. We have got to use this as a learning experience. We are still a young side so have got to make sure we come back better.

“We are still in a good position compared with where we were. We have got a lot of games to come and need to make sure we look at our performance levels. We are renowned for passing the ball and didn’t do that against Walsall.”

Defeat, which saw Walsall complete the double over Cherries following their 2-1 win at Dean Court in September, saw Howe’s men drop a place to eighth in League One.

Howe had been forced into a late reshuffle after winger Marc Pugh (dead leg) had failed a fitness test and midfielder Richard Hughes (ill) had withdrawn from the squad. And Cherries’ woes were compounded when Harry Arter limped off with a hamstring injury in the 36th minute.

Although Cherries exited the FA Cup at the hands of Wigan in midweek, Howe refused to use this as an excuse and said: “Yes, we had a hard game in the week but it didn’t legislate for some of the decision making from us against Walsall. It is something we have got to get over pretty quickly. It is the end of our good league run but we have still got to look forward.

“We are still in a good position, although if we play like that again, we are going to make it very difficult for ourselves. We have got to make sure this is a one-off and quickly get back to winning ways.

“We have got to perform and make sure we live up to the hype. There is always pressure when we play now because we are one of the big scalps. But it is a great position to be in and we need to relish that.”

New signing Ryan Fraser looked on from a seat in the Main Stand at the Banks’s Stadium after a delay in receiving his international clearance preventing the Scotsman from featuring in the Cherries squad. Howe hoped the 18-year-old would be in contention for Tuesday’s scheduled trip to Hartlepool.