SOUTHEND United striker Tom Hopper was thrilled to be back in action this afternoon.

The 26-year-old had been out with a cruciate ligament injury since October 2018.

And he was delighted to play 45 minutes in today’s 3-1 win against Maidstone United.

“It was nice,” said Hopper.

You’ve got to start somewhere and today was that starting step, getting 45 minutes under my belt which felt good.

"It’s been a long 11 and a half months but to even be back in the pre-match build-up and getting back into that routine of preparing for a game, it’s been nice and a long time coming.

"It was a good competitive game as well which was nice to come back into.”

Goals from Eren Kinali, Layton Ndukwu and Tom Clifford saw the Shrimpers triumph.

And Hopper is now keen to kick on.

"I probably got a bit too excited in the first 10 minutes but I got my second wind,” said Hopper.

"The legs felt good and I felt sharp so it’s another building step on that long journey of rehab and I feel good after it.

"Hopefully now I will keep building on that and the more time I get to do that the sharpness will improve and hopefully I just feel better and better."