SAM Long says he welcomes the added responsibility on his shoulders having established himself as one of the key players at Oxford United.

The Bicester-born right back is the club’s current longest-serving player and was the big winner at United’s end of season awards in May.

The 26-year-old scooped the Andrew Knapton supporters’ player of the season and players’ player of the season prizes.

He made 44 appearances and scored six goals in 2020/21 – both career-best totals.

Injury disrupted him at the start of the current campaign but having started three of the last four games in Sky Bet League One, the defender is looking to get back into the action following the international break.

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He said: “I’m feeling good, it was obviously a frustrating start to the season on a personal note but as a club, I was glad to see we had a positive start.

“I’m happy to be back in the fold now, helping the boys and back out there on a match day.

“Before the international break, I got that 45 minutes in the cup [against Stevenage in the Papa John’s Trophy] which probably stood me in good stead and helped me out.

“It gave me the confidence that I am ready to do that [play two games in a week].”

Having got back to fitness, Long said the international break came at a good time for him and that being an important cog in the team was something he relished.

He said: “It’s always welcome to have a bit of a rest, the games come thick and fast in League One.

“Last year was obviously a good one on a personal note for myself and I think I established myself as a starter last year.

“There’s plenty of players here that can step in and take your shirt when you’re not performing.

“When I’ve got more responsibly on my shoulders I perform even better.

“The more responsibility I have is welcomed.”

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Last season saw United’s defence chip in at the opposite end of the pitch, something which has so far not been replicated in this campaign.

In addition to Long’s six goals, Josh Ruffels added another six in the league from left back while Elliott Moore notched a further five.

This season, Steve Seddon is the only defender to score in the league, having bagged the first goal of the season in the 1-1 draw at Cambridge United on the opening day.

Long recognises this is something that can be improved upon as the season progresses, especially after missing a chance in the 2-1 win at Sheffield Wednesday last time out in League One.

He said: “The one at the back post, Mide [Shodipo] does really well but I should score the header from the corner.

“I was very grateful that Jamo popped up when he did and scored.

“I’d always back myself to score that chance.

“Everyone misses chances but you have to try and minimise that as much as possible.

“Last year you could see how well the back four did with attacking set pieces and defending set pieces.

“It’s something we haven’t got right this year just yet but we’re working hard to try and do that.”