IT IS fair to say the festive period was not particularly kind to Cherries.

In the eight games since the start of December, Eddie Howe’s men lost more players to injury than they did pick up points during a wretched run of form.

The memorable 1-0 success at Chelsea stands out with Saturday’s FA Cup win over Championship Luton the only other time Cherries came out on the winning side in the past two months.

Problems remain for Howe’s men, sitting in the Premier League relegation zone and with the list of absentees still far too close to double figures ahead of a vital run of fixtures.

But one man who has profited amidst a chaotic Christmas, is centre-back Chris Mepham.

The 22-year-old, who arrived at Cherries from Brentford in a £12million deal a year ago this month, is the only man to play in every minute of those past eight games.

His improving displays, epitomised again during the 4-0 weekend win over the Hatters, is all the more impressive given he had played no minutes for the first team in the previous eight matches due to the form of Steve Cook and Nathan Ake.

But with that key pair among a raft of players struck down with injuries in the past month, Mepham has emerged from the shadows, demonstrating his capability to blossom from a promising talent to a genuine Premier League regular.

And his performances have not gone unnoticed.

On a run of five straight defeats, Cherries faced a daunting trip to Stamford Bridge last month to face a Chelsea side who sat comfortably in the top four and had defeated Lille in the Champions League in SW6 four days earlier.

With injury ravaging his squad, Howe had to create a masterplan, the basis of which was forged on the new centre-back pairing of Mepham and Simon Francis, who both shone in the 1-0 triumph.

“I thought that was the best game he has had for the club,” said Howe of Mepham.

“I thought he really grew in stature. The aerial duels he won, the physicality and aggression he needed to show in his game were there.”

Discussing the praise from the boss, Wales international Mepham was not keen to dwell on his colossal display at the Bridge.

Asked if he agreed his performance at Chelsea was one of his best for the club, Mepham told the Daily Echo: “Yeah I think so. I feel like I’ve stepped up and performed well. I just need to do that on a more consistent level.

“I can’t be very good one week and then the next week drop my standards. I need to maintain them throughout the season.

“I think always when you win, it makes a performance seem better than it probably was whereas you can have just as good a performance and if you lose, then it’s not really seen as good. But for me personally, I need to make sure I maintain those standards and kick on.”

He added: “He (Howe) is always dead honest with us as players.

“I think he sees the bigger picture, rather than just seeing it in terms of a result so I think the most important thing is that the manager trusts me in that position because it’s an important position.

“I am fairly new to this level, so I just need to repay the faith with good performances.”

Cherries will hope to welcome a couple of players back from injury across the coming weeks, with a huge clash against Watford at Vitality Stadium on Sunday (2pm), another side in the bottom three.

The eight-day break will no doubt be welcomed by Howe and the squad having packed in nine games in the previous 36 days.

Mepham said: “We had a lot of games in a short period of time and I think we are being stretched at the minute with all the injuries we’ve got. We’ve just got to make do with what we’ve got.”

With Ake believed to be closing in a return from a hamstring injury and Cook back following his fractured wrist, the next challenge for Mepham is keeping his spot in a fully fit squad.

But with age on his side and having now produced consistent performances during a tough run for Cherries, Howe knows he has another reliable and ever-improving option at his disposal.