Sheffield United: Adkins explains Long decision

George Long has been a fixture in Sheffield United's starting eleven since November �2016 Sport Image all rights reserved
George Long has been a fixture in Sheffield United's starting eleven since November �2016 Sport Image all rights reserved
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Nigel Adkins says his decision to name George Long has Sheffield United’s first-choice goalkeeper has been vindicated.

Long, a former England under-20 international, is expected to make his 19th appearance of the season when Swindon Town visit Bramall Lane this weekend after replacing Mark Howard between the posts two months ago.

Mark Howard and George Long are both competiting for a place in Nigel Adkins' team �2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

Mark Howard and George Long are both competiting for a place in Nigel Adkins' team �2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

Despite proving controversial in some quarters, Adkins told The Star that recent results have justified Long’s presence in United’s starting eleven.

“George has responded well,” he said. “If he has made a poor decision then he’s always done that.

“The players have got confidence in George, you can see that. He’s a young goalkeeper and we’ve got high hopes for him.”

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Nigel Adkins now takes his team to Roots Hall on March 30 �2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

Nigel Adkins now takes his team to Roots Hall on March 30 �2016 Sport Image all rights reserved

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Long, aged 22, progressed through United’s youth system before making his senior debut in 2011. He joined Motherwell on loan last term and helped the club preserve its Scottish Premiership status during their promotion/relegation play-off against Rangers. But, speaking earlier this term, Long acknowledged any tail-off in performance levels will see Howard reclaim his place.

Adkins, the United manager, said: “I think that response is a sign of George’s growing maturity. Everyone makes mistakes and, from a goalkeeper’s point of view, they will always be highlighted. So how you bounce back and respond is key.”

Meanwhile, United’s visit to Southend has been rescheduled for Wednesday 30 March after being selected for live television broadcast. The game was initially set to take place on Monday 28 March.