herald

Sunday 28 May 2017

Puel: 'Goal will aid Long's confidence'

Southampton's Shane Long
Southampton's Shane Long

The sight of Gareth Bale back in full training with his club is a welcome piece of good news for the Wales camp ahead of the World Cup qualifier in Dublin in 40 days' time.

But Martin O'Neill had his own reasons to smile over the weekend with key players finding form and finding the net as Robbie Brady, Shane Long, Aiden McGeady, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Horgan all scored for their clubs.

And with Jon Walters still out of action following surgery, O'Neill will be enthused by the form of Long in particular. The 30-year-old came off the bench to score for Southampton in their 4-0 win away to a sorry Sunderland on Saturday.

After a very frustrating run of 21 games without a goal for his club early on in the season - Long's only goal of the campaign by then had come in Ireland's World Cup win over Moldova - he has found form.

Long has now scored four times in his last seven games for his club, and boss Claude Puel feels that run will help the player's confidence, as Long's morale had taken a hit following the arrival last month of rival striker Manolo Gabbiadini, which had shunted Long out of the starting XI as Gabbiadini and Dusan Tadic were preferred.

"To shoot and to dribble is quality and also for Shane all this gives confidence for all the team and all the strikers," says Puel.

There's a break from the Premier League now for Long and the Saints as next up is Sunday week's League Cup final against Manchester United, a chance for Long to add to a medal collection which, so far, consists of a Championship title success with Reading in 2006.

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