NATHAN Ake urged Cherries to keep their heads up despite recent poor form and target a top-half Premier League finish.

Cherries have only ended inside the top 10 once since promotion from the Championship in 2015 when the side placed ninth in the 2016-17 season with a club record 46 points.

Eddie Howe’s men looked well on course to repeat that feat after picking up 20 points from their first 10 matches this campaign.

But a run of just 18 points from their past 23 league games has seen them drop into the bottom half, eight points off the top half with five matches to play following last weekend’s lacklustre 3-1 home defeat against Burnley.

Ake, who took the armband during the second half against the Clarets, is expected to continue his run of starting every Premier League game this season when Cherries go to 16th-placed Brighton tomorrow (3pm).

Asked if the season is in danger of slipping away, Ake said: “It is never too late. We have to make sure we keep that in our heads that it is never too late.

“We still have five games to go and things can turn very quickly, we know that.

“We have to make sure this week we get our minds back on it and make sure we focus on Brighton.

“At the moment as we are standing, top 10 is what we are aiming for. But obviously it is tough.

“We just have to see game by game now and see where we can go.”

If they are to begin pushing up the table again, Cherries will have to find a formula to start picking up more points on the road having won just once on their travels in 11 attempts since October, losing 10.

Three of Cherries’ remaining five games this season are away from Vitality Stadium, with trips to Southampton and Crystal Palace to come after the game at the Amex.

The Dorset club are still 10 points clear of the relegation zone but Ake dismissed suggestions that thoughts of already being safe from the drop had crept into the dressing room.

He said: “That can never be in the back of the players’ minds.

“Everyone wants to win. We wanted to achieve something very good this season after having a very good start.

“Everyone is 100 per cent on it, I can tell you that, but it is just not happening at the moment.”

He added: “It is hard (to find an answer). Believe me, we are talking about it (the poor form). We are trying to find out, we are trying to work hard and make sure we overcome it.

“We are just in a rough patch at the moment. We just have to make sure we do not get too negative.

“We want to keep our confidence and we have to make sure in the next game we put it right.”