STEVE Clarke was delighted with Shane Long's impact on his injury comeback in last night’s 2-1 defeat at Everton – but insisted the players he has returning from the treatment room need time to get back up to speed.
The 26-year-old striker came off the bench to net his ninth goal of the season following a three-game absence due to a severe dead leg.
Albion’s head coach was also boosted by the return of Claudio Yacob, who featured in last Saturday’s derby with Villa after recovering from a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a hamstring problem, only to suffer a knock to his shoulder.
And Clarke revealed although he would ‘love’ to have kicked-off the game with the recuperating duo in his line-up at Goodison Park he will not rush them back into his starting XI.
“We scored almost immediately after Shane came on,” said Clarke.
“That’s what he does.
“It was good for us that we got him back on the pitch last night.
“He’s been out for a number of weeks and hasn’t trained very much with the team.
“I’d love to have started him but sometimes you have to protect the player for the long term.
“But in the half-hour he was on, he looked lively.
“We looked more of a threat when we had two strikers up front.
“We actually had three strikers on at the end as we were chasing the game, which opened it up a little bit and we conceded a few late chances.
“But it’s good to have Shane back. Claudio also got a bit more time on the pitch.
“Second half, he grew into the game and looked more like his old self.
“It’s great to get them out of the treatment room but it doesn’t mean they’re ready and firing to play matches.
“There is a process you have to go through, but I think in the next couple of games, we’ll get the team back up to speed and hopefully back to the performances and results we got earlier in the season.”