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Dublin: 22 °C Thursday 24 July, 2014

‘Every day in training I slot them away’ – Long finds plenty of positives after Serbia defeat

Striker predicts a selection headache for Martin O’Neill after Wes Hoolahan’s man of the match performance.

Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer

SHANE LONG SAYS he’ll struggle to get to sleep tonight as he thinks about his two missed chances against Serbia.

But Ireland’s goalscorer refused to beat himself up and took plenty of positives from the 2-1 friendly defeat in Dublin, the first loss of Martin O’Neill’s managerial reign.

Long gave Ireland the lead on eight minutes but admitted afterwards that it really should have been a hat-trick.

He said: “It was nice to dink it over the goalkeeper but it was probably my hardest chance of the night.

“I was delighted to score obviously and to get an 11th goal for my country wasn’t bad.

“It was a great chance to get a hat-trick tonight and it’s a striker’s dream when you have Wes [Hoolahan] running at the defence. He’ll just find you with the ball. They were two perfect passes to me.

“To be fair I think the keeper did well with the first one but the second one was a bit of a hash for me.

I’ll learn from it. I’m lucky that it’s not a qualifier, it’s a friendly, but apart from those two misses I thought I put in a good performance.Every day in training I slot them away no problem.

“I don’t know what came over me, maybe not so much for the first one but that second miss, I thought the keeper was coming out and tried to dink him and ended up dragging it.

“I’ll learn from it, probably take more time on the finish, but as I said nine times out of ten I’ll score them.”

Long was full of praise for Hoolahan, who excelled in the playmaking role and was the obvious Irish man of the match even though he was substituted on the hour mark.

He’s a great player and he seems to find that space in between the lines very well. I tried to stretch the defence as much as I could to give him that space and when he got it and turned, you just have to make a run and he’ll find you.He deservedly got man of the match tonight and if I had scored those two goals, it would have been two assists for him as well.

“I’m sure he’ll give the manager a bit of a headache when it comes to the next game.”

Ireland’s performance in the first half when they were on top for long spells points to the confidence that O’Neill and assistant Roy Keane have managed to bring back to the side.

“I think in the first half today, it was the most comfortable we’ve ever played, passing the ball around and causing them all sorts of problems.

“The manager and Roy, they do instill that into you and even afterwards they came up to me and said don’t worry about it, move on.

I’m disappointed that I missed the chances but we learn from these mistakes and the experience that they have rubs off on us players.

Earlier this week, O’Neill pointed to Long as the natural successor to Robbie Keane.

Following in the footsteps of the country’s leading goalscorer is a challenge, but no added pressure, he said.

“I’ve been here a long time and I’ve been biding my time, waiting for my chance to come every time I come into the squad. If the gaffer sees me as a viable option, I’m ready to jump in and take that.

“Wearing that green shirt is a privilege for anyone. I’m looking forward to the challenge.

Robbie, his record is unbelievable and I don’t think it will ever be touched, but I can learn from him as well.

“He’s brilliant to have around here in the squad because he talks to us as well and helps us out. He’s a really good captain.

“Obviously the gaffer didn’t have him here tonight and went with me instead. Hopefully I gave him something to think about.”

Player ratings: here’s how we thought the Boys in Green did against Serbia

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