A goal against Crystal Palace and a key hand in both strikes at Watford have restored Shane Long to centre stage for Saints of late.
The Irishman’s commitment to the cause will never be questioned and that characteristic determination has earned the striker a starting berth in each of his team’s last five matches in all competitions.
With an important run of fixtures on the way, Long is keen to continue reaping the rewards of a renewed self-belief and the confidence of the coach.
“Playing every week makes a big difference to me; knowing that I have the trust of the manager in what I do for the team is really important. Not just starting matches, but playing the full 90 minutes.”
The 30-year-old was at the centre of the majority of his side’s good work at Vicarage Road at the weekend, a sign that he may be finding some form after an admittedly difficult 2017.
Just in time for a critical period in Saints’ season.
“I feel like I am playing well at the moment and getting into my stride; I’ve always worked hard for the team so it was a boost to have had a hand in our goals of late.
“I’ve been in the game a long time and as much as I’d like to say not scoring before Palace didn’t affect me, it did. Chances were coming my way and maybe I was overthinking things when it should be automatic.
“I do well to hide it but it was a relief to see that goal go in. My approach to games wasn’t changing but when the ball isn’t hitting the net, it’s hard not to let it enter your mind.”
The Irishman has been in the game long enough to know that what matters most however is results, and while he sees good in what Saints have done in patches this term, is under no illusions that improvements are urgent.
“We’ve been ahead in a lot of games and done some good things this season; we need to know that when we go a goal up, we have the quality to go on and make sure we win the game.
“We deserved to beat Watford but we shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position even before the equaliser.
“From past experience it needs to happen soon. We’re still approaching things in the right way; we’re training hard, we have trust in each other and nobody is pointing fingers.
“We expect better from each other; that is more than half the battle when you find yourself in a situation like this.”
Looking forwards, Tottenham, Watford and Brighton all visit before the end of the month; three opportunities to boost spirits around St Mary’s, both on and off the pitch.
“We can feel the frustration of the fans and they will play a big part for us in the next few weeks.
“For supporters and players alike, it’s tough to come to each game and go home feeling dissatisfied. We’ve two home league games coming up, imagine what six points would do for us.
“Obviously it’s up to us to do better on the pitch and give them something to cheer but as long as they know we are giving our all and we want it just as much as they do.”
Spurs are next on Sunday.
shane longBeing the underdogs has helped us this season; it took a last-minute goal to beat us at man city
Underdog status has aided Saints at times so far - most notably in promising, determined performances at the Etihad Stadium and Old Trafford – and Long is looking for more of the same this weekend against a “very good” Spurs side.
“We’re under no illusions; Spurs are a very good side. We gave them too much space in the game at Wembley so we know we will need to be at our best to get a result.
“Being underdogs has helped us at times this season, it took a last-minute goal for Man City to beat us, United couldn’t break us down. We’ve done well against the bigger teams when the pressure is off us and it’s more on them to get the win than us.”