New-look system lifts Blades for future challenges

George Long hopes he continues to be overlooked for man-of-the-match awards at Sheffield United.

That will mean the Blades goalkeeper is left twiddling his thumbs behind a strong United rearguard.

Back-to-back clean sheets against play-off rivals Walsall and Gillingham have been impressive, with Long having little to do behind a new-look 3-5-2 formation.

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It is a system which is unlikely to earn the Blades a play-off place as they are nine points adrift of the top six, with just five games remaining.

A positive finish to the season would, however, help manager Nigel Adkins set the tone for a summer of rebuilding.

They have finally started to look like the team who were tipped for promotion in August and Long said: “The last few weeks we’ve been performing really well. The new formation, with the wing-backs, has been working really well.

“Bash (Chris Basham) is a brilliant outlet, he gives us a great out ball and the three centre-halves have been really solid. Brilliant in fact.

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“The gaffer and his team have been working on it during training and it’s been working well in games so, obviously, if something is working well then you stick with it.

“Hopefully, we can build on it, too. I think it suits quite a few of the lads, with the qualities they’ve got.

“Defensively, things have really tightened up. Making one or two saves a game is what you want as a goalkeeper.

“Obviously, it’s nice of you’re making loads but then, at the same time, that means something is going wrong in front of you. Something clearly isn’t right.

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“Mentally, it can be tougher when you don’t have much to do but you’ve got to stay in touch with the game.

“The best way is talking, organising and moving with what’s going on. Always communicating and staying switched on.

“I think that’s an area where I’ve improved and it goes to show why, as a young goalkeeper, playing games is the main thing.”

Long, 22, has made over a century of appearances for his home-town club since making his debut in 2011 and he added ahead of Saturday’s trip to Chesterfield: “What’s happened earlier this season has gone now and all we can focus on is the next couple of games, trying to play the same way and trying to win. ”