DEFIANT Jon Higgins says last Saturday’s agonising defeat to Hull Ionians has only made Dudley Kingswinford stronger.

The Heathbrook side once again ran one of National Two North’s top sides close, only to lose in the dying seconds.

But player-coach Higgins says their performance in the 22-19 defeat, their third reverse on the bounce, will stand them in good stead for this Saturday’s visit of bottom side Huddersfield where victory would all but end any lingering relegation fears.

Higgins said: “It was disappointing to lose in the way we did but the performance was a massive improvement on the one at Hull the week before.

“If we can beat Huddersfield we should be OK and if we play the way we did against Ionians we will definitely win.

“But it’s a case of producing that performance week in, week out. That’s what we have to strive for.”

DK should be boosted by the return of centre Stefan Shillingford, who missed the Ionians game through injury.

The visitors, who still hold hope of overhauling Stourbridge at the top of the table, began strongly and took the lead through Kerry Wood’s try.

But the game turned when the visitors had Mark Wigham red carded for a clash of heads at the scrum.

By half-time DK had clawed their way back to 12-12 and they then took the lead a minute after the restart when Josh Watkins chased a Higgins chip over the top to score.

Ionians threw the kitchen sink at the home defence as they looked for a way back but the hosts looked like holding out until two minutes from time when they were rewarded a penalty try after constant pressure.

Chris Reakes converted to level the scores and then broke DK’s hearts with a last-gasp penalty to snatch it for the title chasers.

The bonus point maintained a 12-point gap between DK and Westoe, the team who occupy the final relegation place.

Higgins said: “The performance showed we can compete with the top teams in the league.”