Monday 22 January 2018

Long frustrated as Randolph endures Hammers fans' fire

Darren Randolph reacts after Fabio Borini scores Southampton’s second goal in the 90th minute. Photo: Reuters / Scott Heppell
Darren Randolph reacts after Fabio Borini scores Southampton’s second goal in the 90th minute. Photo: Reuters / Scott Heppell
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Shane Long's stop-start campaign reached another level on Saturday when he was withdrawn just 22 minutes after being brought off the bench in Southampton's 3-0 defeat against Manchester City.

His disappointment was apparent from his body language, but the change seemed to come as a surprise to Saints boss Claude Puel in a bizarre episode.

Long had taken a knock on his hamstring shortly after his introduction and did appear to be in some pain.

But he stopped and stared at the bench en route to the dressing room when his number was put up and Jay Rodriguez was summoned for action.

Puel's number two Eric Black indicated that injury was the reason, mimicking the action of the Irish striker stretching during a break in play in his side's defeat.

But Long didn't appear too happy with that assessment, nor did Puel who threw his arms up in the air while looking towards his staff. He hinted afterwards that his decision was based on misinformation.

"It was difficult," he said. "It seems that Shane felt a touch himself in his hamstring and it seems a misunderstanding between him and the staff.

"It was a precaution to take off Shane but I hope it's nothing and it will be good for Shane tomorrow or the next day."

Long already had reason to be exasperated after he dropped to the bench following successive starts in victories against Crystal Palace and West Brom.

However, he has not scored since February 11 with all five of his Saints goals this term clustered between New Year's Eve and that strike against Sunderland two months ago.

The 30-year-old has started nine Premier League matches this term, making double that amount of appearances off the subs bench. He has failed to push on from last season, his best in the English top flight, when he struck double figures.

Meanwhile, it was also a grim weekend for another player who will always be associated with Ireland's famous Euro 2016 qualifying win over Germany.

Darren Randolph has grown in stature from that night and has confirmed his status as West Ham's first-choice goalkeeper this season after displacing Adrian between the posts.

But he has come under scrutiny for errors in recent weeks and was heavily criticised by fans for his role in the Hammers' 2-2 draw with Sunderland.

He fumbled a last-minute cross which allowed Fabio Borini to equalise for the hosts - who had earlier scored direct from a corner when Wahbi Khazri's delivery sailed in as Randolph was bundled out of the way.

Slaven Bilic said afterwards that he would not be singling out individuals and insisted recently that he was happy with his goalkeeping options.

"To concede both goals in this way, they were both strange goals and we are not happy with the way we conceded them. I've not seen that kind of goal [direct from a corner] for a long time, but it's very hard for a keeper.

"He's been in good form, but there will be no pointing fingers," Bilic added."We are a team. We are playing as a team, we are winning as a team, we are drawing as a team, we are losing as a team and we are conceding goals as a team. That's it."


Overall defensive problems have plagued Bilic's charges this term. Across their entire league campaign, they have leaked 59 goals which is more than doomed Sunderland.

The only three sides with an inferior record in that regard are Bournemouth, Hull and Swansea.

Back at home, Shamrock Rovers defender Luke Byrne could make his return from a long term injury in tonight's EA Sports Cup encounter with Bohemians in Tallaght.

Rovers got an overdue win against Sligo Rovers on Friday and boss Stephen Bradley has indicated he will field a strong side against Bohs. But former Gypsies defender Byrne, who has been dogged by knee trouble, has a chance of figuring after returning to fitness.

"We've been looking at Luke, we'll have a chat and see how the bodies are but we want to get Luke involved quickly," says Bradley.

"I can't wait, it's a great draw, the sort of game you want after a win. We'll go as strong as we possibly can and try and win the game."

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