BOSS Eddie Howe was critical of referee Andy D’Urso’s performance during Cherries’ 3-1 defeat by Championship rivals Leeds United last night.

Howe was particularly unhappy with the experienced Essex-based official’s decision to award Leeds a free-kick in the lead up to their second goal.

D’Urso, who was demoted from the Premier League in 2005, deemed Simon Francis had fouled Leeds midfielder Rodolph Austin when it was clear the Cherries defender had won the ball cleanly.

The decision was even more baffling considering D’Urso, who once served a suspension after failing to send off Barry Ferguson despite having booked the then-Blackburn player twice in a match at Southampton, had been on top of the incident.

Howe, who saw Giuseppe Bellusci score the resultant free-kick, said: “The second goal was a bitter one to take because, at 1-1, it was still anyone’s game. We felt it was a really disappointing decision by the referee to award the free-kick, which, in our opinion, was a very good tackle by Simon Francis.”

Asked whether he felt Cherries should have had a penalty after Matt Ritchie gone to ground under a Stephen Warnock challenge, Howe replied: “It is difficult for me to comment on individual decisions.

“But, what I would say, and this is unlike me, is that I thought the referee was really poor for us and I thought he was really good for Leeds. For our supporters to boo him off went to show what they thought as well and I haven’t heard that for a long time.”

Despite taking the lead through Andrew Surman, Cherries’ winless league run extended to five games as second-half goals from Souleymaine Doukara, Bellusci and Mirco Antenucci won the points for the visitors.

Howe added: “It was a good start and we got the goal our play had deserved. I felt we needed to get two or three for our first-half dominance and really should have come in with more than a one-goal lead.

“We have to be more clinical with the opportunities that come our way and that is certainly something we need to continue to work on. Goals change games and I thought we were fairly comfortable at 1-0.

“We were looking for a second to put the game to bed. Their first goal was a good one from their perspective but disappointing from ours. We had good possession on the halfway line and gave away the ball. They counter-attacked and scored.

“We know we are a good team. We have played really well in phases in games this season, probably even better than we did at times last season. But what we haven’t done is be ruthless at the back and clinical in front of goal. We have allowed teams a way to stay in games, we haven’t finished them off and it has come back to haunt us.

“There are positive signs and we must continue to work and build the team and make sure we learn from these errors.”