Sheffield United manager Nigel Clough believes the best is yet to come from George Long, despite lavishing praise on the youngster following his “mature” performance against Leyton Orient.
The League One leaders survived a huge scare when Conor Coady fired United in front during Saturday’s clash at the Matchroom Stadium before Dean Cox’s spectacular finish salvaged a point for Russell Slade’s side.
Long, aged 20, impressed by making a series of fine saves as the visitors extended their unbeaten run to three games and hauled themselves out of the relegation zone as a result.
Clough told The Star: “That’s the best I’ve seen George. And, given the career stage he’s at, you know he can get even better too.
“He made some very important saves but what impressed me the most was his maturity. He commanded his area and helped to organise everyone in front of him.
“Young players can always improve their communication. We’ve been working on thsat with George but if you can get someone communicating like that at 20 that’s brilliant.”
“The key for George now is to keep on looking to improve,” Clough added. “He’s got to work very hard and try to continue progressing.”
Long, now a regular member of the England under-21 squad, foiled Orient’s leading goalscorer David Mooney twice before the interval but was powerless to prevent Cox’s long-range effort from cancelling-out Coady’s opener.
“It was all going according to plan,” Clough said. “And it took a great strike to undo us. You’ve got to give their lad credit for that.
“If teams are going to score against us then you want it to be goals like the one Orient had to score rather than just giving them away.
“We’re trying to build confidence here and we’re on a little run. We want to keep that going and, although it’s small steps, we do feel that we are progressing in the right direction. That’s we’re moving forward.”