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Oct 24, 2012

Clarke praise for Baggies star Long

West Bromwich Albion head coach Steve Clarke has praised Shane Long, despite regularly substituting the striker this season.

Clarke - who said his club's main aim this season remained avoiding relegation despite their impressive start - again substituted Long as the Baggies suffered a late defeat at home to champions Manchester City.

Long had given Albion the lead in the second half but was withdrawn in the search for fresh legs after often ploughing a lone furrow up front.

"Shane's been great for us this season," Clarke said. "I can't speak highly enough of him. He's probably getting a bit frustrated that I keep taking him off but, when I do, I'm bringing on quality as well.

"We are trying to win games, and maybe that was to our cost against City. I think the team got caught up in the moment.

"There was the save from Romelu Lukaku's overhead kick and you think you'll get the winner from the corner. Unfortunately for us, we didn't ring the edge of the box well enough and we got done on the counter."

Despite Albion's fine start and their comfortable mid-table finish in 2011-12, Clarke is not distracted from what he sees as the main agenda at the Hawthorns.

"We keep the same focus and targets," he added. "We know what we want to do. We need to make sure we are in this league next year. That's the first target and it's a target we're still aiming for.

"I think in the cold light of day we played well [against Manchester City] and looked like a good team. We have to make sure that we take positives from the game and build on it for what is another tough game at Newcastle on Sunday."

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