Kirkley & Pakefield boss Paul Tong hailed the return of Robbie Horton with the midfielder enjoying a hectic 24 hours at the weekend.

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After 18 months out with a knee injury, Horton made his first start for the Royals during their 3-1 win at home to Wivenhoe and impressed in having a hand in his side’s second goal of the afternoon.

However, he was unable to complete the match however due to the fact he had to go and pick his partner, Leah, up from hospital at half-time after she had given birth to their daughter, Indie, on the Friday night.

Tong said: “Robbie got the call at half-time that his wife was ready to come out of hospital so we had to make a substitution – it wasn’t like that in my day! But seriously we were really glad he made such an impression on the game in the first half.

“It was a big call to bring him back in after 18 months out. He is still not 100 per cent but he made a massive difference to us.

“He is still a long way away in terms of match fitness but he gave the team a lot of confidence and I think it was probably the right game for him to come back into despite all what he had going on!”

Tong was pleased with his side’s overall display against the Essex outfit and the three points arrested a run of three league games without a win.

“I put a bit of pressure on them before the game,” he said. “I felt that a few of them had not taken it all as seriously as they should have and I wanted to see a response.

“To be fair we got one the challenge for us now to to build on it.”

The one black mark on the display was the red card given to Ryan Crisp late on after a show of dissent to the referee.

Tong has ordered his side to keep their discipline and believes the youngster will learn from it.

“The players have been told by the management that this sort of thing is going to cost them dear,” he said. “You just can’t do it now. We’ve all done it in the past where we’ve had our say to the referee.

“The important this is that Ryan learns from it – he has got his trial coming up and doesn’t want to mess that up. He apologised to the referee afterwards, which was accepted and we all move on.”

Kirkley go to high-flying Mildenhall this weekend and Tong is hoping to have Craig Roberts, Scott Woodcock and Ross King back available although goalkeeper Jordan Smith won’t play.

“Hopefully we can get to the stage where we’ve got a bit of competition for places as that’s what every manager wants,” he said. “Mildenhall have had an excellent start and it will be a big test but I know that on our day we can beat anyone.”

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