SOUTHEND United striker Tom Hopper ended a year’s worth of pain by scoring for the Shrimpers at Tranmere Rovers tonight.

Hopper was making his first start since suffering a cruciate ligament injury in October 2018.

And the striker was thrilled to mark his return by hitting the back of the net for Blues in a 1-1 draw at Prenton Park.

“It’s been nearly a year and moments like tonight make it all worthwhile really,” said Hopper.

“I had been imagining doing that for so long and it was a great ball from Simon Cox to set me up.

“I felt up to speed and that’s testament to Benji (Clarkson), Stef (Russo) and all the medical team.

“They have all worked as hard as I have.”

Hopper’s early goal seemed to have secured all three points for the Shrimpers.

But a late penalty from Paul Mullin saw Tranmere rescue a share of the spoils, much to the frustration of Hopper.

“When you’re leading for the majority of the game and with the chances we had as well it’s frustrating we haven’t come away with more but we’ve left everything out there tonight,” said Hopper.

“There are positives to build on and there’s no harm in feeling frustrated after getting a point from a tough place to come.”

However, Hopper is now keen for Blues to build on the draw.

“The performance tonight showed a lot of promise,” said Hopper.

“We have to keep reaching that standard and raise it too.

“We need the same energy and tempo.”