Long absence 'affecting Baggies survival'
SHANE Long's injury-related absence has had a negative affect on West Bromwich Albion's survival prospects, according to team-mate Gareth McAuley.
The Tipperary native has been sidelined for the last two games with a chest injury but it expected to return for the west midlands showdown with Wolves this Sunday.
Last weekend's defeat to Swansea has seen the Baggies slip to 15th position, just six points clear of the relegation zone.
The Irish international terrorised Mick McCarthy's men when they met at the Hawthorns in October during a 2-0 win, with boss Roy Hodgson describing his performance as "near fault-free", and McAuley believes he can produce a repeat performance at Molineux.
"Longy started the season fantastically and we probably do miss his presence because he's got a reputation, and I know from playing against him that he never gives players any peace," McAuley said.
"That can get in the minds of the opposition when they think he's going to chase everything down and run the channels all day.
"That's what he's good at so he is a different kind of prospect to the players we've got playing at the moment."
Long, the Baggies' leading scorer with six league goals, has been dogged with injuries since his arrival from Reading last summer, and McAuley believes the club must be patient with his rehabilitation and hailed Marc-Antoine Fortune's form in Long's absence.
"It's important but there are a lot of games to go and we need to be patient with Shane," McAuley added.
"Hopefully we can get him back sooner or later, fit and able to play, and to carry the battle.
"But Marc has been fantastic in the games he's played and I thought he was fantastic again on Saturday, getting hold of the ball for us. He's a player they'll have to watch out for too."