Manager Sean Birchnall always prides himself that his teams work harder than other clubs.

With his Army background, discipline is a given.

So it hurt him when he admitted his Town side were out-worked when they went down to a disappointing 2-1 defeat at Balham.

“We weren’t good enough,” he said.

“Balham outworked us. I’ve said right from the start that hard work has been ingrained in me. If we are not technically as good as teams, that’s one thing – but we are not going to get outworked by them. The work rate has to be there.

“We can’t create anything if we don’t have the ball and we have to work harder to get the ball. You have to earn that right. No team at any level is going to just give you the right to have the ball and play. We earn the right by working hard and on Saturday we didn’t work hard enough.

“We have technical ability in our team in abundance. I wish when I played I had that ability, but the work ethic has to improve.

“We seem to be up and down. We beat Horley and won 5-0 at Fleet and in the blink of an eye we have lost two league games and a cup tie.

“There’s no bitchiness in that squad. They stayed out together as a group on the pitch after the Balham game for about ten minutes. They’re not stupid, they know it wasn’t good enough.

“No-one was having a pop. It was good the players were taking responsibility. We want to be competitive in this league and that performance wasn’t good enough.

“It’s the first time since I have been here that I feel they have slipped below those standards.

“If they work hard, they’ll earn the right to play because they have so much ability. The top teams in any league aren’t there because they have the best players, but because they work harder.

“What I like about these players is they’re an honest group. They know where they dropped their standards on Saturday and hopefully they’ll respond in the right way against Abbey Rangers next week, move on and put this to bed.”

It was only Balham’s second victory of the season and Birchnall said: “They did what we expected them to do – it’s a difficult place to go, they are difficult playing conditions against a difficult side who are very defensive, but it was very effective.

“In the first half, if it was a boxing match the referee would have stopped it, the amount of possession we had. But we didn’t create that much.

“We had a couple of chances and one goal was disallowed for offside which definitely wasn’t – I’ve seen the video – but we have to deal with that.

“But we put no pressure on one of their players outside the box and he scores, then another one has no pressure on him and he bends it into the corner. Everyone says ‘great goal’ but it wasn’t a great goal because we didn’t put on enough pressure to stop the shot in the first place.

“At 2-1 I thought we could get them in at half-time and give them a rocket and see what comes out, and after the break we had a lot of possession without testing their goalkeeper.

“And that’s where the frustration lies – we have some very experienced, very good players and we didn’t create anything to get level.

“They had the best opportunity when they got a penalty that young James Ferguson saved.

“We have friendlies this week and on Saturday and we can regroup and get ready to play Abbey next week.

“The players have to take responsibility, know it’s not good enough, react to it and come back and do things differently.”