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Tuesday 6 December 2016

'Saint Shane deserves his place': Boss

Long, Brady and Wes in scoring form

Southampton’s Shane Long and (l-r) Norwich’s Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan celebrate their goals last Saturday Photo: Getty
Southampton’s Shane Long and (l-r) Norwich’s Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan celebrate their goals last Saturday Photo: Getty

An in-form Shane Long deserves his place in the Southampton starting line-up, according to his club manager.

Long made it four goals from his last nine Premier League games, and nine goals for the season overall, when he netted the winner for a revived Saints side away to Swansea City, his 69th minute effort making up for a blatant miss earlier on.

That goal, along with the sight of Robbie Brady and Wes Hoolahan on the scoresheet for Norwich City, will have given Martin O'Neill reason to smile after a weekend to forget for his goalkeepers. Between them, Newcastle's Rob Elliot and the uncapped (but eligible) Mark Bunn conceded 11 Premier League goals, with another Irish keeper (Bury's Ian Lawlor) also beaten six times.

Long struggled to get starts under Koeman earlier this season but his current form is keeping Sadio Mane out of the side, and boss Ronald Koeman says Long's performances are making his decisions for him.

"I think he deserves to start because he's working hard," said Koeman. "He's always on the move. He's always running. He's very dangerous. That's the reason every time I start with Shane. Okay, with the signing of Charlie (Austin) we have big competition. On Saturday, I had Charlie, I had Tadic, Mane on the bench. But that's what we really like to have because a strong squad makes progress and makes competition." Long was glad to make amends for that earlier miss. "The gaffer said 'don't worry another chance will come your way' and thankfully James (Ward-Prowse) put in a great ball for me. You always want to score the goal and grab the headlines, but a lot more credit has to go to the defenders," said Long.

Brady scored his first Norwich goal since September but he rued the loss of a 2-0 lead. He said: "We shot ourselves in the foot again. Hopefully it is a valuable point on the board but it is so disappointing".

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