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Bournemouth need leaders to avoid relegation scrap, says captain Cook

(Reuters) - Bournemouth skipper Steve Cook has issued a rallying cry to the squad to “step up” and lead to avoid a relegation battle after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat by Brighton & Hove Albion left them two points above the Premier League drop zone.

Soccer Football - Premier League - Brighton & Hove Albion v AFC Bournemouth - The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain - December 28, 2019 Bournemouth's Steve Cook and Dan Gosling react after the match Action Images via Reuters/John Sibley

In the battle of the south coast clubs, Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Aaron Mooy scored in either half to give Bournemouth their seventh loss in nine games.

Eddie Howe’s side, 16th, have struggled with injuries to key players this month but Cook said that was no excuse for their poor performance, highlighting the need for the squad to understand the magnitude of their perilous position.

“The two teams were worlds apart today. Something has to change,” Cook told Sky Sports. “Individuals have to step up, especially the leaders.

“It’s not down to quality but how brave enough people are going to be to want stay in this league. The lads who are fit have to pull something out of the bag. Injuries are a huge factor but it’s not an excuse.

“We were flat today and poor. Maybe we don’t realise what’s at stake, we have to show our nasty side, grind out results.”

As many as nine players were unavailable due to injury this month and Howe, who lost forward Joshua King and defender Jack Stacey to injury in Saturday’s loss, highlighted the need for squad rotation during the busy festive period.

“With a small squad the Christmas period is the ultimate test and you need to rotate players,” Howe said. “It’s very difficult to ask players to go twice in three days.

“The games come thick and fast and this was one of the games we needed to get something and we didn’t. We need to learn our lessons.”

Howe also said he would take a call on whether to sign new recruits in the January transfer window depending on how long his players would be sidelined.

“It depends on the severity of these injuries and how the players who are coming back are,” Howe added. “We need to assess that very quickly.”

Bournemouth are next away to fellow strugglers West Ham United on Wednesday.

Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge