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REUTERS - Bournemouth's wretched start to 2017 continued on Monday with another loss to Manchester City and injuries to two key players, and manager Eddie Howe was left in no doubt his side are now battling for Premier League survival.
Howe, regarded as one of the brightest young managers in Europe, applauded his side's effort and commitment but City's class in the 2-0 victory meant Bournemouth have failed to win a game this year following their promising start to the season.
With their captain Simon Francis and England international midfielder Jack Wilshere having to come off injured before halftime, it left an air of gloom at Dean Court with Bournemouth now sucked into the relegation whirlpool.
"We go into a little break in the calendar and we have to come back as a refreshed team, ready to fight for our Premier League survival, because we're in no doubts that's the situation we're in," Howe told Sky Sports.
"We can grow from this experience and come back a better team."
Bournemouth played with a drive and effort that should serve them well in the battles to come but Howe will have to address a run of seven matches without a win in all competitions, which leaves them only six points above the drop zone.
"In terms of effort and commitment, I thought our lads gave everything but, obviously, we were hampered by the injuries," Howe said.
Skipper Francis suffered a recurrence of a hamstring problem while Wilshere experienced pain in his ankle.
"Losing two players in the first half is a huge blow. When you lose your captain who's been important for us for a number of years was a real blow," he added.
"We reorganised and had a go, but ultimately they were too good."
Bournemouth face two big away test straight after the international break as they travel to face West Bromwich Albion and Manchester United.
Despite the tough road ahead, Howe, who has helped Bournemouth punch above their weight for years, refused to be disheartened. "We have to be positive," he said.
Reporting by Ian Chadband; Editing by Peter Rutherford