YORK City boss Gary Mills paid tribute to Simon Heslop after the midfielder justifying his recall to the team following suspension.

Heslop scored the first goal and set up the second for Amari Morgan-Smith during a 2-0 home win over Stockport, having missed the previous match – a 4-2 success at Spennymoor.

Former Wrexham and Luton campaigner Heslop was banned for that match following his red card in the 2-0 defeat to FC United of Manchester.

But Mills insisted the York-born, 30-year-old’s return to the first XI was never in doubt, with his preference to Jassem Sukar also facilitating a switch back from 3-4-3 to 4-3-3.

The vindicated City chief said: “Hessie had a couple of really, good games and, then, a couple of iffy ones, but he’s a footballer and that happens to them. He’s his own worst critic and doesn’t need telling when things aren’t going right, but he was always going to come back in for me, particularly at home where we can get on the front foot with his and Sean Newton’s energy.

“I always feel he can get you a goal and he proved me right. He’s such an honest lad and you know what you’ll get with him and he came in and put in a good performance.”

Heslop’s 17th-minute strike sparked a celebration of unity involving all the players and management staff in the dugout and, explaining that reaction, Mills added: “Hessie knew I had to make a decision on him and that’s why he came running over.

“We are together as a dressing room and are working hard. We have taken some criticism for losing a couple of games and, whether I feel that’s over the top or not, we are a football club who are going to fight to get into the league we want to be in next season by sticking together.”

Having taken six points from a possible six, the Minstermen have moved four places up the National League North table into fifth position behind Harrogate, Salford, stuttering early pacesetters Brackley and Blyth.

On the change in outlook at Bootham Crescent ahead of Tuesday night’s home game with third-bottom Gainsborough Trinity, Mills pointed out: “Back-to-back wins are very important, because they make so much difference to your league position and, now, we’ve got the chance of making it nine points from nine.

“I think we’ve beaten two good sides in different ways, because we defended superbly well and were strong against Stockport to keep a clean sheet. They changed how they were playing about two or three times and asked questions, but we answered each one.”

Mills went on to joke that Morgan-Smith’s spectacular third goal of the season was overdue, before insisting that it was an appropriate reward for his selfless endeavour.

“I think he’s tried to do that about ten times already this season, so it’s about time he got one,” the City manager laughed.

“But, with five minutes to go, he won a couple of tackles in the middle of the park to put us on the front foot rather than them and, for me, things like that are just as important as curling one into the top corner. He deserved the goal, though, for the work he puts in for the team.”

City are optimistic, meanwhile, that goalkeeper Jon Worsnop will be available against Gainsborough, despite suffering a second-half injury.

“Jon has dislocated his finger,” Mills revealed. “But, hopefully, he can put it back in or strap it together with another finger.