MANAGER Eddie Howe believes mercurial winger Marc Pugh has added “real intelligence” to his game since stepping into the Championship.

Pugh capped one of his finest displays in a Cherries shirt by winning the Sky Sports man of the match in the 2-0 win over Watford on Friday.

The 27-year-old has grown in stature this season and been one of Cherries’ most consistent performers as they have climbed to the top of the league.

One of Howe’s first signings following promotion from League Two, Pugh has missed just 21 league games out of a possible 212 since his arrival from Hereford in June 2010.

Winner of the coveted Daily Echo-Micky Cave supporters’ player-of-the-year trophy in 2012, he was also Cherries’ leading goalscorer in his first two seasons at the club.

Pugh, who has netted seven times in the Championship this season, provided the assist for fellow winger Matt Ritchie to double the score against Watford.

Howe told the Daily Echo: “There were several outstanding performers in the game and Marc was certainly one of them. Some of our wide play was outstanding, very intricate and very clever. Marc has really grown this season and his performances have been very consistent and of a really high level.

“We are really pleased with him and hope he can continue his good form. He has developed a real intelligence to his play. When I first worked with Marc, he was an outstanding dribbler and an outstanding winger in terms of one-versus-one duels.

“He has always had the tricks and skill to beat players. I think what he has added this season is a real intelligence with his movement.

“He is a great lad to work with and very professional. You can see from all the charity work his does what a level-headed person he is and I can’t speak highly enough of him and his performances this season. He has been a key part of what we are doing, as have other players as well.”

Howe also believes fierce competition for places among his team of wingers has helped bring out the best in the Lancastrian.

“I think that is the beauty of this squad,” added Howe. “Ryan Fraser was outstanding at Aston Villa against international players and Junior Stanislas has performed very well when he has played this season.

“They are pushing the two wide players to some very good performances because they know that, if their standards drop, we have two very good players to come in and play.”