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'In training all my shots were going in!' - Long relieved 325-day goal drought is behind him

The Ireland and Southampton striker went through a barren spell for much of 2017.

Long will be aiming to get on the scoresheet for Ireland for the first time since October 2016 later this year.
Long will be aiming to get on the scoresheet for Ireland for the first time since October 2016 later this year.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

2017 IS MOST likely a year Shane Long will have been glad to wave goodbye to.

The 30-year-old striker embarked on the longest goal drought of his professional career — failing to hit the target in 34 appearances for club and country.

That period stretched 10 months or 325 days — from 11 February 2017 to 2 January — but finally ended in the Saints’ 2-1 defeat to Crystal Palace.

Tipperary native Long accepts that it was a difficult period and adds that being used as a substitute most often by his club certainly didn’t help matters.

“It was tough,” Long told Sky Sports. “I’ve been in the game a long time, and I knew it was just a matter of it coming sooner rather than later, but I suppose when it drags on for so long it gets on top of you a bit more, and that confidence goes out of you for a bit.

I think any player would struggle, but if I broke it down, the amount of starts I’ve had and the time I’d had on the pitch, I wasn’t getting that regular football, and I think I needed that to get my confidence back up, and I knew the goals would come.

“I was still doing the same thing. In training all my shots were going in and then in the game they’d miss by inches! I’m just glad to see it go in.”

Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League - Etihad Stadium Long is tackled by Man City's Fernandinho. Source: Mike Egerton

Long has started the last four Premier League matches under manager Mauricio Pellegrino but the club are in trouble as they sit just one point outside the relegation zone in 17th place thanks to one win in 14 attempts.

Ahead of Sunday’s clash with Tottenham at St Mary’s, he is calling for the group to unite instead of passing the blame to one another.

“I think the main thing is sticking together and not pointing the finger, blaming people,” added Long. “We’re all in this together, this time round I think we’ve got a much stronger squad from my previous experiences of relegation battles.

“We’ve just got to believe in ourselves to get out of that trouble. I think at the moment we are going ahead in games and then dropping off because that confidence is so low, soaking up pressure, and teams are just too good at this level and punish you.”

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