BEMUSED Bromsgrove Sporting boss Paul Smith accused his players of lacking sufficient fight following their 3-1 defeat to Highgate United.

The result has seen Sporting slip to third place in the Midland League Premier Division and a baffled Smith admitted: "I can't remember the last time a side of mine was out-battled and out-fought.

"We knew before the game that it was going to be a battle, but in the end, we were found wanting.

"Once Highgate's second goal went in, it was effectively all over.

"I can accept being beaten by a better side, but I can't accept my side being outfought. It's something I won't tolerate and I told the players so.

"I try not to go overboard when we win and the same applies when we lose. But what disappointed me the most was the lack of desire to get back into the game in what was an abject display.

"It was a complete contrast to the midweek draw with Westfields. The 3-3 draw was one of the best games I've been involved with.

"It was a great advert for Midland League football and I thought we were very good. My players gave me everything and it was so unfortunate that we conceded a 94th minute equaliser."

Sporting now turn their attentions to the FA Vase where they face a daunting task at Sporting Khalsa this Saturday who have currently gone second above Bromsgrove Sporting, in the table.

Having reached the semi-finals last season, Smith is under no illusions of the task ahead and said: "The FA Vase lit up the town last season and we had two crowds of over 3,000 at the Victoria Ground.

"But like a lot of things in life, you need a bit of luck and I don't think we could have been handed a harder draw.

"Sporting Khalsa are in great form at the moment having won 12 of their last 13 games and drawing the other.

"Make no mistake, one very good side will be going out of this year's competition early on.

"We will need to go to Sporting Khalsa and put in the same sort of performance that we produced against Westfields.

"But after the display against Highgate, I'm like a wounded animal and I will be looking for a big reaction from the players.

"In an ideal world, we would want to put out our best 11, but that won't be the case.

"Guy Clarke is absent, while Sam Wills is suspended.

"Robbie Bunn is set to have an x-ray on his injured shin which he sustained against Westfields and I only rate his chances of being fit as 10 per cent.

"Both Robbie and Sam have been in scintillating form for us of late and their absence this Saturday will be a big loss!