TOMMY Elphick admitted he felt “let down” by the match officials after Cherries suffered a controversial 1-0 defeat to Championship promotion-chasers Derby.

Elphick was penalised by referee Mark Heywood for his sliding challenge on Will Hughes in the closing stages of Saturday’s contest at Pride Park, although TV replays appeared to show the Cherries captain had cleanly won the ball.

Chris Martin condemned Eddie Howe’s men to defeat with the resulting 85th-minute free kick, which the front man curled round the wall into the top-right corner.

However, Dean Court skipper Elphick, who was booked for the challenge, felt Martin should never have been given the opportunity in the first place.

He told the Daily Echo: “I’ve seen it back and no way was it a free kick.

“He (Heywood) has got it a million per cent wrong.

“You work all week on keeping teams out and to get let down by officials is not a good feeling.

“He (Martin) still had a lot of work to do and he put a great free kick away, so you’ve got to take your hat off to him.

“He’s a powerful lad with a great strike and Campy (Lee Camp) has got no chance, which says a lot for the execution.

“But we’ve defended so well and we didn’t deserve that. It’s highly frustrating and it’s hard to see the positives right now.”

Cherries were the more creative and penetrative force in the first half, with Matt Ritchie rattling the upright and strikers Tokelo Rantie and Lewis Grabban also going close.

However, after the break Derby cranked up the pressure and the Cherries backline were forced to defend desperately in an effort to salvage a positive result.

Based on the overall performance, Elphick felt a draw was the least his team deserved.

He said: “In the first half we had some good chances and good counter-attacking moments, we put some lovely passing moves together.

“Matty has hit the post, Grabbs has gone through one-on-one but the lad (Lee Grant) made a great save, and Tokelo is looking more threatening with each game.

“For 20 minutes (in the second half) they had a good spell and flashed a few balls across the box, but we were all tight and we were all marking them.

“I think Campy has had one cross that he’s had to deal with but apart from that and the goal, he was untroubled.

“I thought we were well worth a point, if not more.”