JOHN Hill believes Halesowen's performance against Stafford Rangers was a big sign of improvement after their shaky start to the season.

The Yeltz couldn't hold on for all three points as Stafford struck late to share the spoils when Jack Sherratt cancelled out Oliver Finney second half opener.

It was Halesowen's first draw of a campaign that has seen them win one but lose seven of their opening fixtures.

However, the boss was full of praise for the character his players showed and the way they bounced back following last Saturday's disappointing FA Cup exit at the hands of lower ranked Basford United.

Hill said: "It was disappointing that we couldn't hold on for the win but I do think a draw was a fair result.

"I wasn't disappointed with the performance or character of the players.

"I was flabbergasted that we lost by the score we did against Basford but it came down to individual errors again.

"We needed a response to that and we asked the players to show that they are prepared to roll their sleeves up for each other, this club and the supports.

"There is still work to be done but that performance against a very good Stratford team shows that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"It gives us a platform and we have to make sure we build on it. We can't just put one half decent performance together but then lose the rest, we have to back that up."

Hales now face a difficult trip to 10th-placed Ashton United this Saturday.

Hill will again have more options after bringing in defender Dominic Smith and forward Matt Hearsey this week.

Both started against Stafford and could again feature due to injuries to Ben Clark (back), Jordan Goddard (knee) and Brad Lewis (hamstring).

Smith joins from Hinckley and is a strong central defender that has previously played for Wolves Sporting, Black Country Rangers, Leamington, Lye Town and Willenhall Town.

Walsall-born Hearsey joins from Dudley Sports after a previous spell with Newtown, where he scored the historic goal that took them into the Europa League, and Rushall Olympic.