KIRKLEY & Pakefield boss Paul Tong hailed the performance of match-winner Dominic Smith after the midfielder’s second-half strike netted all three points for the Royals at Norwich United.

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The Kirkley skipper struck early in the second period to score the game’s only goal after being left out of the side in the 4-1 defeat against Dereham on Saturday.

Smith was one of six senior players dropped against the Magpies after a below par display on Boxing Day, and Tong was delighted by the response of his players.

“I made six changes in the match against Dereham because I wasn’t happy with our performance at all on Boxing Day,” said Tong.

“I brought them back in against Norwich United and to be fair they responded. The people that were left out against Dereham came back in and there were some good performances.

“Dominic’s performance was first class. His standards are probably a lot higher than a lot of other players in the team and he is someone the other lads look to.

“You have to remember he is still only very young himself – for a young lad to lead the team is a lot to ask but he does it very well.

“His attitude has always been first class. When I took him out of the firing line against Dereham he said the rest would do him good and I think we saw the benefit of that against Norwich. It was a captain’s performance.”

Victory over the Planters meant Kirkley took four points from four games over the festive period – a return that didn’t displease the Kirkley chief.

“We know where we are – we have had four very difficult games over Christmas and we have taken four points. To be honest, if you had offered me that at the start then I would have taken it.

“We are always looking to win every game and I think a lot of teams would like to be in our position.

“I want the lads to enjoy their football but commitment and desire has to come first. The enjoyment comes through that.”

Kirkley welcome Brantham to Walmer Road tomorrow and the Royals will have to do without first choice centre back pairing Craig Roberts and Josh Herbert

“We lost both Craig Roberts to a hamstring injury and Josh Herbert to a groin strain which is a blow for us,” confirmed Tong. “To lose your two centre halves is going to test any squad but Lewis Flower came in and did really well.

“Brantham is going to be a big test for us and then we’ve got Bury on Tuesday night. It’s a tough schedule but the youngsters are likely to get their chance and if they take it then they will stay in the side.”

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