SHANE Long is craving a run of games to prove that he can be the man to lead the line for Saints.

The Republic of Ireland striker had been restricted to appearances from the bench, before making his first start of the season in the 1-0 win at Crystal Palace.

The 30-year-old admits he’s been “frustrated” by the lack of opportunities but kept his “head down, trained hard and tried to prove my point” to try and force his way in to the team.

“For me personally hopefully I can get a run of games now and pick up a bit of form,” he said.

“I felt like I did well [against Palace], but the more games I’ll play the more confident I’ll be and the more goals I’ll score.”

Mauricio Pellegrino also has Manolo Gabbiadini and Charlie Austin to choose from upfront and Long knows he has to bide his time, and prove himself in the opportunities he gets.

He said: “It’s been frustrating. The gaffer’s got a few options upfront with me, Gabbi and Charlie.

“He likes to play one striker so someone will be frustrated, but I’ve just kept my head down, trained hard and tried to prove my point. I’m just waiting for my chance to come.

“[Against Palace] I feel like I played well, but I didn’t get that goal, so the next game I’ll try and put that right and kick on.”

Saints have had problems scoring goals lately and while Long is yet to find the net this season so far has faith that, given the chance, he’ll hit form.

“For me it’s all about game time. Goals come with game time. I remember my Reading days even I think I scored one in 13 but finished with 25 goals by the end of the season,” he said.

“The manager kept playing me and giving me that chance and that confidence makes a big difference for a striker.

“Hopefully [Pellegrino] will be happy with me today and I can now get a run of two, three, four games in the team and the goals will come.”

It’s just a matter of time before the goals come, insists Long.

“That comes with a run of games – that confidence that you’re going to play every week,” he said.

“In saying that, if you go three or four games without scoring you have to hold your hands up when you get dropped and say ‘fair enough’.

“But I feel like I’m playing well and the chances will come. I’ve been scoring in training, I’ve been flying on the pitch. It’s just a matter of time.”

Long knows that he can bring a certain style of play which isn’t always what Pellegrino wants from his lone striker.

The former Hull and West Bromwich Albion man’s work rate is exceptional and he’ll run after everything, even if it’s a lost cause.

That kind of nuisance-factor and the ability to stretch defences is valuable to Saints, but Long is under no illusions that it’s not what the team need in every match.

“What he wanted from the striker was to test in behind by stretching their defence it creates holes in the pockets for Redderz, Davo and Dusan to get on the ball and I think I am the man for that job,” he said, referring to the Palace win.

“But if it’s going to be a deep lying defence and he wants someone to come to the ball he wants different options.

“It depends on who we’re playing against and as I said I thought I played well today and everyone seemed happy with how I did.

“But you’re your own best critic, you know yourself. And I hope I put myself right in the mix for next week.”

Although none of Saints’ strikers are yet to hit their scoring stride this season, each of them are focussed becoming Pellegrino’s first pick.

Long said: “There is that competition there. We’ve got three very good options there and you know if you’re not on your game and not doing it during the week that there’s somebody ready and willing to come in and take your place and you know they’ve got ability.

“So you’ve got to take your chance when you’ve got it.”

“We struggled the last few games and the gaffer thought a change was needed,” he added.

“But Gabbi’s an unbelievable goalscorer and Charlie has proved himself too.

“That competition is still there and the manager will play what he think is best against the opposition we’re playing.

“I’ve just got to keep my head down, train all week and try and keep my place in the team. But whoever does play I’ll be fully supportive of.”