STOURBRIDGE boss Gary Hackett feels illness and injury played a part in his side's flat showing against Rushall Olympic.

The Glassboys drew 1-1 at home to their neighbours on New Year's Day as their lead at the top of the Southern League Central was trimmed to just two points.

Second-placed Kettering, who have played three games less, picked up a 2-1 win over Rushden to set-up an intriguing 2019 title race.

Rushall rocked the Glassboys by taking an eighth minute lead when former Halesowen Town favourite Asa Charlton turned home Ash Sammons' ball into the box.

Stourbridge were back level by the 15th minute when Robbie Thompson-Brown delivered a wicked free-kick for Luke Benbow to net with the deftest of touches.

Rushall enjoyed the better of things without finding a way past young home stopper Niall Maher for a second time.

However, Hackett was full of praise for his players after his squad was hit by illness and injury at the end of a busy festive period.

He explained: "We've had a virus in the camp with a host of players not feeling too well.

"When you add to that the injuries we have to James Wren, Callum Powell and Jordaan Brown then it means we were really up against it.

"Darryl Westlake then felt his calf before the game and was also struggling. If you take that many key players out of any team they are going to struggle.

"We do have a very strong squad but it has been tested recently.

"Either way we have no god given right to turn up and beat anyone. How the game went it was probably a good point.

"Rushall came and raised their game to play us and that is something we are going to have to deal with because when you're sitting at the top you're there to be shot at.

"I've got nothing but praise for the players and what they are giving. We have played more games than anyone else and have only lost two."

The Glassboys now go to bottom-placed Bedworth this Saturday looking for a big three points.

He added: "You can't afford to take anyone lightly, especially in the this league, and we'll make sure we prepare properly.

"They have picked up recently so we need to make sure we're ready."

The manager also confirmed he's looking to strengthen his squad further this month but may not be able to complete a move before the weekend.