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Long Boxes Clever

Clarets' defender proves his mettle to help Burnley bounce back

28 December 2017

Kevin Long didn’t let Harry Kane spoil his Christmas as the Clarets’ defender delivered the goods on Boxing Day.

Long and his back-four colleagues were given a tough afternoon by Kane as the in-form England captain bagged the first of two hat-tricks in three days in a 3-0 win at Turf Moor last Saturday.

But the Ireland international brushed off that disappointment to produce a masterful display at Manchester United, where only an injury-time strike from Jesse Lingard denied the Clarets a first win at Old Trafford since 1962.

“To be fair, we would probably have taken a draw before the game, but when you’re winning 2-1 with a couple of minutes to go at Old Trafford, you want to hold on and get that win, so it was disappointing in that way,” Long told the Clarets’ website.

“It’s a bizarre situation but it definitely shows how far we’ve come in a short period of time to come away from Old Trafford slightly disappointed.

“But the performance, to bounce back from the Spurs game, was good.

“When Spurs are on it, like they were against us, and we weren’t at our best, which doesn’t help, I think they can punish a lot of teams – especially Harry Kane and the form he is in.

“Going into the United game, I wasn’t letting that rest on my mind.

“I knew I had to move on and go again. That’s what we did, and as a team I thought we were a lot better.”

Long was starting only his seventh top-flight game when he came up against United’s stellar strikeforce of Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

But he made up for the absence of the suspended James Tarkowski as Burnley earned the point – thanks to Ashley Barnes’ early goal and Steven Defour’s world-class free-kick –  that keeps them within touching distance of the top six ahead of Saturday’s trip to Huddersfield Town.

“It’s one of the things the gaffer says to us. We need to be ready,” added Long.

“He keeps us fit. When the lads are doing cool-downs, we are always working hard on the training ground and trying to get ourselves right, so when we get a chance we are in a position to take it.

“We are in a great position, but we are not going to rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on going and see where we are at the end of the season and hopefully we can continue the form against Huddersfield.”

Free-scoring Liverpool then visit Turf Moor on New Year’s Day – without record signing Virgil van Dijk, who will be registered too late to play following his £75m signing from Southampton.

The game against the fourth-placed Reds will complete a demanding run of fixtures over the holiday period, but Long isn’t complaining.

“That’s why you’re in the Premier League. They are the games you want to be involved in,” he said.

“When we got promoted first under the gaffer we had a similar spell of playing all the top clubs (the Clarets faced Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham and Arsenal in the space of eight games in February and March, 2015).

“We had a meeting and he said that sometimes they are all spread out, but at the end of the day you’ve got to play them all anyway, so it doesn’t make a difference whether it’s over a two-week period, or a two-month period, you’ve still got to play them.

“We just put our focus on that and do the best we can.”

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