Shane Long introduction gave Southampton an edge

Long has been introduced as a sub in recent weeks (©GettyImages)

Shane Long's introduction gave his side the edge as they ground out a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace last night.

The Irishman has been out with a rib injury for a few weeks but he returned in the last couple of matches albeit as a substitute.

His appearance last night gave the Saints the different option they have been lacking in recent weeks which has led to a string of poor results.

Running in-behind

The option Long gives manager Ronald Koeman is that of a runner in-behind the opposition defence, something for which he has made his name.

Last night, after a tricky hour the Saints were struggling to break down a hard-to-beat Crystal Palace at St. Mary's.

Koeman introduced Long and the Irish international's pace and power put the Palace defence on the back foot and the home side got a late winner to take all three points.

Pace and power

The 5ft 10in striker has been deployed out wide for much of his Southampton career which started this summer as Koeman has favoured Graziano Pelle as the teams talisman.

In Long though, he has a different option and instead of feeding Pelle's target man frame, the Saints can let Long chase and cause opposing defences all sorts of problems.

His pace combined with the strength he holds makes him a formidable opponent, especially when running at speed.

Work rate vital

Although he has not added as many goals as he would have liked in his career (83 goals in 330 appearances via transfermarkt), the 28-year-old more than earns his worth due to his high work-rate.

Any side would be better placed with a Shane Long-type player in their squad, and without them the more creative players cannot express themselves fully.

Against Palace last night the former Hull and West Brom striker again caused the problems that Pelle is sometimes unable to and it led to the Saints winning the match.

No plan B

Without Long in the last few matches, Koeman has been unable to change his tactics in a bid to break down stubborn opposition.

If the tactic of feeding Pelle does not work, the Saints have not been able to try and run in-behind without the option of Long on the bench.

That has coincided with a poor run of form which they ended with last night's victory and Koeman may even be forced to play Long from the start in the match against Chelsea a week on Sunday.

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