MANAGER Eddie Howe admits Cherries can ill afford to dip below their best Championship standard as they bid to compete in the “demanding” division.

Howe felt Cherries had been punished for failing to hit top form when they were condemned to a 3-0 defeat by high-flying Wigan at DW Stadium yesterday.

Both teams went into the clash on the back of decent runs but Uwe Rosler’s men continued their play-off push to halt Cherries’ four-match unbeaten sequence.

Marc-Antoine Fortune fired the Latics into an early lead as the hosts dominated the first half, before Elliott Ward’s own goal doubled the advantage on 57 minutes.

Cherries created chances in the closing stages, with Tokelo Rantie and Lewis Grabban going close, but Jordi Gomez completed the scoring with a long-range strike.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “You need to be at your best against every team in this division.

“You didn’t see the best Bournemouth team (against Wigan). We had four or five who were just slightly off their peak and it showed in the performance and result.

“The challenge is for us to make sure the players realise that they can’t have a bad day. We can’t as a team. We need to be at our best to get positive results at this stage.”

Providing his overall opinion on the game, Howe said: “It was disappointing from our perspective. I didn’t think we hit the standards that we had done in recent weeks. In terms of possession and how we had passed the ball, we had been really good. Against some good teams, we had performed ever so well.

“But we just couldn’t get our passing game going, especially in the first half. We came under pressure and gave away the ball in bad areas against Wigan’s high press. It took us a half to deal with it but once we did, we were good in the second half and we had some good chances.

“We were much improved when the subs came on but, unfortunately, we couldn’t get the goal we needed to turn the game at 2-0 down.”

Howe added: “We have had a really good period of results against some difficult teams and we have had a consistent run of performances, which is the most important thing. This was the first one where we dropped below the standards we had set and we have to try to get back on and produce another consistent run.

“The league is demanding and it was another tough away game for us but we have to look forward to Tuesday now and try to get this out of our system.”

Substitutes Rantie, Marc Pugh and Brett Pitman staked their respective claims to start when Cherries host Burton Albion in the FA Cup on Tuesday night.

Howe said: “TK, Marc Pugh and Brett Pitman are all good players in their own right and they made a massive difference. I was really pleased with them and they have certainly given me food for thought ahead of Tuesday’s game.”