Wednesday 23 May 2018

Long wait for a goal will end soon, says striker Shane

Ireland striker Shane Long, pictured here in action during the Premier League win over Crystal Palace last Saturday
Ireland striker Shane Long, pictured here in action during the Premier League win over Crystal Palace last Saturday

Shane Long says it's only a matter of time before the goals will start flowing after a frustrating spell in the Premier League with Southampton.

The weekend win over crisis club Crystal Palace was an important victory for the Saints but it was also a big deal for Long, his first Premier League start of the season after a long spell on the fringes.

Long was pleased to get his first start since last April, though the lack of goals - Long has gone 22 games without scoring for club or country - is still a concern.

It's a worry for his club and also at international level, Ireland having scored just two goals in four home qualifiers to date, but the sight of Long back in the starting XI with Southampton will at least offer some comfort to Martin O'Neill with the visit of Moldova only 16 days away.

"Hopefully they will be happy with me and I can now get a run of two, three, four games in the team and the goals will come," Long said.

"That comes with a run of games - that confidence that you're going to play every week.

"In saying that, if you go three or four games without scoring you have to hold your hands up when you get dropped and say 'fair enough'.

"But I feel like I'm playing well and the chances will come. I've been scoring in training, I've been flying on the pitch. It's just a matter of time.

"For me it's all about game time. Goals come with game time. I remember my Reading days, even, I think I scored one in 13 but finished with 25 goals by the end of the season," he said.

"The manager kept playing me and giving me that chance and that confidence makes a big difference for a striker.

"For me personally hopefully I can get a run of games now and pick up a bit of form. I felt like I did well against Palace, but the more games I'll play the more confident I'll be and the more goals I'll score."

It's been a tough spell for Long: he missed the end of the Premier League season, and Ireland's three-match series of games in June due to injury and at club level, he began the new season behind Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin in the pecking order.

"It's been frustrating. The gaffer's got a few options upfront with me, Gabbi and Charlie," Long told the Southampton Daily Echo.

"He likes to play one striker so someone will be frustrated, but I've just kept my head down, trained hard and tried to prove my point. I'm just waiting for my chance to come.

"That competition is still there and the manager will play what he think is best against the opposition we're playing.

"I've just got to keep my head down, train all week and try and keep my place in the team. But whoever does play I'll be fully supportive of. Against Palace I feel like I played well, but I didn't get that goal, so the next game I'll try and put that right and kick on."

O'Neill already has issues to deal with for Moldova's first-ever visit to Dublin next month, as James McClean and Robbie Brady are suspended.

With three goals in the campaign, McClean is Ireland's leading scorer in this group as the other scorers (Long, Jeff Hendrick, Daryl Murphy, Seamus Coleman, Jon Walters and Shane Duffy) are on one goal each.

Murphy (four goals in eight league games for Nottingham Forest) and David McGoldrick (four goals for Ipswich) have found the net, while the uncapped Sean Maguire is also on form.

Long's solitary strike in the qualifying campaign, however, was against Moldova and the Tipperary lad will be hoping for more of the same next month.

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