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AFC Bournemouth: Ritchie seeking return to stellar form
HONEST Cherries winger Matt Ritchie has vowed to rediscover his fearsome form after admitting recent displays had fallen short of his own high standards.
In a candid assessment, the 24-year-old Dean Court dynamo refused to cite his early-season injury woes as mitigation and reiterated his determination to hit December’s heights once more.
Ritchie made an immediate impact as a substitute against Derby County in November on his comeback from a persistent thigh problem which had ruined his pre-season preparations.
Five goals in six Championship starts followed with the £500,000 signing from Swindon Town earning plenty of plaudits for reinvigorating Cherries' efforts in the final third.
However, Ritchie failed to find the net in seven league and cup starts after his Boxing Day brace against Yeovil and found himself on the bench for Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to table-toppers Leicester City with boss Eddie Howe keen to keep his squad fresh.
And while he acknowledged the volume of Cherries matches over the festive period had taken their toll, Ritchie made no attempt to hide behind his struggles.
He told the Daily Echo: “As an attacking player, people look at the goals you score and create and in my first six or seven games back, my form was very good.
“Over the past four or five games I have probably been a little bit off it and not quite my usual self. My legs have felt tired but I have started to gain that bit of fitness I missed out on at the start of the season.
“When I came back I felt fresh and while playing a lot of games over a short period at Christmas might have caught up with me a bit, that is no excuse. I wouldn’t put my form down to that at all.
“I have not been on it as much as I could have been. When I came on against Leicester, I tried to play my part and contribute to the team.
“I felt like I did okay and, hopefully, I can work hard in training this week and push on. I’m getting over that barrier now so, hopefully, what I am doing will pay off and I can put in good performances for the club.”
Meanwhile, on the back of a strong showing in the second tier over the past two months, Ritchie reckons Cherries are well placed to push on during the rest of the campaign.
“If the team could establish itself in the Championship I think that would be a good season for us and we would have a good platform to reassess in the summer,” he added.
“As a club, I think we are heading in the right direction. There are some good things happening and we can certainly aim high this season.”
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