BROMSGROVE head coach Dan Protherough answered his critics this week in the wake of their North Midlands Cup defeat to title rivals Dudley Kingswinford with a 34-22 triumph at Stoke.

The result leaves Bromsgrove locked at the top of Midlands One West, level on points with both the DK and Newbold.

Protherough had come under fire from his own supporters for fielding a below strength side against DK the previous week but he insisted: "I understand people's frustration - but I have to look at the longer game and it's important to know when to rest players.

"That said, we were put in an awkward situation and I don't understand why we had to play a semi-final in November."

Although Bromsgrove got back on track at Stoke, Protherough admitted the win was far from straightforward.

He said: "We were down to 13 players at one point in the second due to yellow cards with only a six point lead and we were wobbling a bit.

"Centre Ed Spalding then scored a try at a critical moment in the game to give us a 13 point lead and we were pretty safe from that point."

Ethan Priest sprinted 35 yards for another try while promising centre Kai Douglas grabbed another with No.8 Drew Harper also getting the vital touch from a pushover try.

The accurate boot of scrum-half Will Harris supplied the remaining points, converting all four tries and kicking two penalties for good measure.

Bromsgrove have another local derby on their hands this Saturday when they entertain Stourbridge Lions at Finstall Park.

With the situation so tight on top of the table Protherough added: "We cannot afford any banana skins as it's going to be a right battle all the way to the end of the season".