My most awkward opponent - McAuley reveals all

IPSWICH Town defender Gareth McAuley has revealed the Championship striker he would most like to have in his team – Reading’s Shane Long.

IPSWICH Town defender Gareth McAuley has revealed the Championship striker he would most like to have in his team – Reading’s Shane Long.

Centre-half McAuley, who will proudly skipper Northern Ireland in tonight’s European Championship qualifier against Slovenia, admits that pacy front-runner Long is the striker he most fears in the second tier.

Although a distant second in the Championship’s goal-scoring charts to Watford’s Danny Graham (23 goals), it is Long’s (18 goals) powerful running, on and off the ball, that has given McAuley his biggest headaches.

“Shane Long was very, very good the other week,” admitted McAuley, referring to Reading’s 3-1 win at Portman Road three weeks ago, when Long was amongst the goalscorers.


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“If you look at out stats, he ran us down the channels and he ran us all over the place.

“We ended up doing a lot more running than we have done in other games, and that was all down to his (Long’s) willingness to run and graft for his team, and close down.

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“He was a real handful. Someone like that makes such a big difference to a team. It makes a hell of a difference.

“You just don’t get a minute’s peace. When the ball is coming to you, you are either getting challenged or he is going to be there in a matter of seconds.

“A ball into the channels is a great link ball, and if you have got someone running the channel for you the whole 90 minutes, it’s a massive help to the whole team,” added McAuley.

The 31-year-old Town stalwart put Long above the likes of Graham, Norwich target man Grant Holt, Swansea’s in-form Scott Sinclair, Doncaster’s Billy Sharp and the Football League Player of the Year, QPR’s Adel Taarabt.

A leading contender for Town’s player-of-the-season, McAuley has been named Northern Ireland’s captain for tonight’s home match against Slovenia, due to the absence of regular skipper Aaron Hughes with a shoulder injury.

It is a deserved reward for McAuley, who chalked up the second goal of his international career in last Friday night’s 2-1 defeat to Serbia, a result that has left Nigel Worthington’s side fifth in Group C, eight points behind leaders Italy.

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