GEORGE Long’s spectacular performance late on in the 3-1 win over Cambridge United on Tuesday night perhaps meant there was one person from a home perspective feeling a little bit uncomfortable.
Millwall were coasting into the third round of the competition when the visitors kicked late and created a flurry of chances.
But they couldn’t find a way past Long who made three brilliant saves and Bartosz Bialkowski will have been reminded that the current number two didn’t join Millwall “to sit on the bench”.
Long actually wears the number one shirt, with 33 on Bialkowski’s back.
Long should now get another chance in the third round of the competition against Leicester along with players such as Connor Mahoney, who set up the third goal for Matt Smith after winning the ball in his own half and surging up the pitch.
Long recognised the importance of the win to give those players another chance of competitive action.
“Yeah, 100 per cent,” he said. “When you’re not playing in the league at the moment you want games to keep you sharp and show what you can do.
“It’s only a good thing to be in the next round and I’m sure that’s the same for a few of the other boys in the squad who are looking forward to more minutes.
“I was probably busier than I expected to be but it’s always nice to help the boys out and make a few saves.
“At 3-1 it’s one of those scorelines where if it stays that way you’re comfortable but if they nick a goal back towards the end it does get a bit tense. But fortunately we kept the scoreline where it was at 3-1.
“The boys defended really well. There were a few goalmouth scrambles in there that seemed to go on for ages. But we dealt with it and saw the game out well, which was pleasing.”
It’s one quirk of the season so far that Long has two wins from the two games he has played – after also starting in the 2-1 win over Portsmouth in the previous round – while Bialkowski is still waiting for a first win in four.
There is no question around the Lions’ mood despite two draws and two defeats from the first four league games.
But, ahead of facing Blackpool this Saturday, the win over the League One side came at a good time.
“You want to win every game you play in and progress in the cup, especially for the lads who haven’t been playing in the league,” Long said.
“A win is always important for morale and to bring that confidence to everyone at the club. I think we did it in good fashion. Especially after conceding, to bounce back with a couple of goals in quick succession was important.
“The positive thing is the fine margins that we’re losing by, in terms of things that can be rectified. We’re not getting played off the park.
“At Cardiff it was set-pieces which we can look at and analyse and definitely do better at.
“I think we’ll keep working on that and get them right. Then you start to slowly turn losses into draws and then churn wins out on the back of those things.”
Long’s two games for Millwall have also been at The Den and in front of fans for the first time in more than a year. He regularly travels back to his home town of Sheffield but has settled in south London.
“I’ve loved it, it’s been a big change moving down south but it’s a brilliant group, one that’s easy to settle into,” Long said.
“I’ve loved it at The Den, I’ve played a couple of games here already which has been fantastic.
“It’s a big transition but one I’m really enjoying so far and hopefully for the next couple of years.”
Long is back on the training ground preparing to face Blackpool and working with Bialkowski, goalkeeping coach Lee Turner, and back-ups Ryan Sandford and Joe Wright.
And he has his eyes on that main prize from a stopper’s perspective.
“I said it the day I signed, I’ve not come here to sit on the bench,” Long insisted. “My aim is to be playing and be number one at the club.
“That will continue to be my aim, keep pushing and give the gaffer decisions to make and just control what I can.
“As always, with the majority of goalkeepers wherever you go, you’ve got a good working relationship and everyone gets what the situation is like.
“Me and Bart have got on brilliantly from day one. It’s a great goalkeeping group led by LT. I can’t speak highly enough of the fellow goalkeepers.
“There are always subtle differences [between clubs] in terms of goalkeeping. Your job doesn’t really change but I think a fresh pair of eyes to watch me and help me progress was exactly what I needed.
“LT has been fantastic. He played a big part in bringing me to the club. I can’t speak highly enough of our relationship so far and I feel like I’m really progressing.
“It’s rewarding when on a night like [Tuesday] bits you’ve been working on in training come out and you can make those big saves at important moments.”
Long felt Millwall showed what they were about on Tuesday when they bounced straight back from going behind to George Williams’ goal, as Murray Wallace scored twice before half-time and Smith got his first of the season.
Long added: “It’s that resilience. At any moment you can concede a goal. Obviously no one wants to but they worked a set-piece well and nicked a goal, probably against the run of play.
“But it’s how you react is the most important thing and I think we did that really well to equalise and then go in front.
“Second half I was busy at times but that’s what I’m there for, to keep the goals out and do my best to make saves when needed.”
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