Nigel Adkins, the Sheffield United manager, believes George Long’s “courageous” display against Southend vindicated his decision to select the young goalkeeper ahead of Mark Howard.
Long made his first League One start since the opening day of the season during last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Phil Brown’s side and is in pole position to retain the jersey for Saturday’s crucial League One fixture at Walsall.
Adkins said: “I thought he had a great game. He kept two clean sheets (versus Worcester City and Fleetwood Town) in the week, and I see him every day on the training ground.
“He works really hard on there, has an excellent goalkeeping coach in Darren Ward, and has had to wait for his opportunity. The first game of the season didn’t work out, and it’s how we keep building up those levels of confidence.”
Long had been limited to fixtures in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, Capital One and FA cups since conceding four times when United, making their first competitive outing following Adkins’ appointment, were beaten by Gillingham.
Absolving Long of any responsibility for either of Southend’s two goals, Adkins said: “I thought George kicked the ball well, looked commanding, came and caught the ball, punched well. He had a good game.
“In the second half, he has come out amongst the bodies and took a great catch. The supporters gave him a great round of applause. That’s a big thing for George, it was a big moment.”
“It’s another step up from the character point of view,” Adkins added. “I thought it was right to play him and he did well out there for us.”