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Shane Long hopes 25-game goal drought will be forgotten if he nets Ireland’s winner in crucial Wales clash

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Long has not scored for club or country in a quarter of a century of games but has hopes of ending it with an important strike

Shane Long didn’t know whether to laugh or cry as his goal drought extended to 25 games for club and country on Friday night.

But he knows all that will be forgotten if he nets the goal in Cardiff that gets Ireland to the World Cup – or at least into the play-offs.

Long had three great chances against Moldova to break his extended duck, but all three went a-begging. The 30-year-old’s frustration was clear from his reaction to the third miss.

“You’ve just got to keep believing,” said Long. “Sometimes when it’s like Friday night you kind of have to laugh it off and move on to the next one.”

In explanation the Southampton striker references his final season at Reading, when he scored 23 goals in the Championship – 28 in total – before going 11 games without a goal midway through the next one – the 2011-12 campaign – without a goal for his new club West Brom.

Long was unable to end his run without a goal against Moldova (Image: AFP)
Long hopes his run will be ended in Ireland’s biggest game in years (Image: PA)

“You’ve just got to keep going and going and suddenly it’ll come and they’ll fly into the net for you,” Long said.

“In training I’m hitting the net no problem, it’s just not happening in the game.”

It might be a different story if Long was 20 again and fretting over his situation.

But the experience of 12 years in England has developed his mental strength and he insists that confidence isn’t a problem.

“It comes with being a striker – you’re always going to be judged on goals. I know it’ll turn right if I keep doing the right things,” Long stated.

Long’s poor form in front of goal has also been for Southampton (Image: 2017 Getty Images)

“It would be worse if I was playing bad, nothing was happening for me and the ball was bouncing off me and I wasn’t getting the chances.

“Look, it’s hard not be frustrated. I want to score goals for my country but I’ll keep believing and it will come.

“I feel over the last three games with Southampton I didn’t really have many chances and on Friday I got three but they just wouldn’t go in for me.

“The first one just went past the post, I couldn’t connect any better. The second one was a save and the third one, I don’t know how it went past the post.

Daryl Murphy scored the winner against Moldova on Friday (Image: AFP)

“You know, sometimes this happens but I’ll keep getting in the right positions. Thankfully it didn’t cost us.

“I think if you ask any striker and they go through this stage, it just won’t go in for them, but hopefully the ball will come and hit me in the face and into the goal and it’ll kick on from there.

“I feel like I’m playing well and doing everything right – just hitting the back of the net is the next step and hopefully I can kick on.”

With Jon Walters again unavailable tonight, Martin O’Neill may decide to play a more conservative formation but Long enjoyed playing alongside Daryl Murphy and would like to retain that partnership.

O’Neill could look to line up in a more conservative formation (Image: REUTERS)

“Obviously ‘Murph’ is a big, physical presence and it kind of frees me up a bit if the ball does come along and I can test them behind,” he said.

“I felt like I got hold of the ball and caused them a lot of problems. If you look back at it, you’ll see the chances that I missed and people think it’s a bad game.

“But I know myself how I performed and it is frustrating not to get a goal, but it’ll come”.

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