SHANE Long is thrilled to see his hard work paying off.

The Republic of Ireland international netted his second goal in three games at the weekend to help Saints on their way to a crucial win.

He arrived at the near post in time to bundle Moussa Djenepo's cross in past ex-Liverpool goalkeeper Pepe Reina.

Speaking to Saints' website, Long said: “I feel like I’ve been playing well lately and it’s nice to get a few goals to back that up.

“The three points are massive for us as a team. We had to dig deep and push hard because Villa are a very good side.

“Being 1-0 up in the last minute, it’s always a bit risky, but the guys at the back did really well to keep a clean sheet and it was nice for Stu to get the goal at the end."

Long, 33, also thanked Saints' supporters for creating an excellent atmosphere at St Mary's.

Ahead of the match, Ralph Hasenhuttl called on the crowd to back his team and they didn't let him down.

Over 31,000 fans were there on Saturday and played an important role in urging their team to victory.

The anticipation grew as the minutes ticked down with Saints defending the slimmest of leads but they were put at ease when Stuart Armstrong sealed the win in injury time.

Long added: “Although it was a bit nervous, the fans got right behind us and tried to cheer us over the line.

“It was nice to give them a 2-0 win and a clean sheet – that’s something to be proud of.”