Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, has praised George Long’s strength of character following the goalkeeper’s return to form.
Long endured a disappointing start to the season, conceding four times during United’s opening day defeat by Gillingham before losing his place in the starting eleven to Mark Howard.
But the youngster, who was briefly recalled for last month’s Capital One Cup tie at Fulham, underlined his new-found confidence with an impressive display during Tuesday’s Johnstone’s Paint Trophy victory over Hartlepool which culminated in two penalty saves.
“We believe in George,” Adkins said. “He’s done very well in those games and shown exactly why. He deserved to make those two saves during the shoot-out and we’re pleased that he did because it helped us to go through.”
Although Howard, barring injury or illness, will don the gloves when United return to action against Bury this weekend, Long’s performance at Victoria Park confirmed the wisdom of Adkins’ decision to recall the former England youth international following a loan spell at Motherwell.
With Howard conceding only once in nearly eight hours of football, the 50-year-old said: “Every single player here has an important role going forward. It’s all about the group, the squad and it has to be that way if we want to achieve our aims.
“The season, particularly in this division, is a long hard grind. We know that and they’ve all got to be ready. We want them to be pressing for places in training and putting us under pressure with our decision making.”