Friday 22 September 2017

Cooke turns up heat on Malmo as Drogs go for glory

4 August 2012; Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke reacts after his side conceeded their first goal. Airtricity League Premier Division, Sligo Rovers v Drogheda United, The Showgrounds, Sligo. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
4 August 2012; Drogheda United manager Mick Cooke reacts after his side conceeded their first goal. Airtricity League Premier Division, Sligo Rovers v Drogheda United, The Showgrounds, Sligo. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

Gareth Maher

HISTORY rewards those who take risks, and that is exactly what Drogheda United intend to do tonight (6.0) as they aim to dump Malmo out of the Europa League.

On paper, this should be mission impossible for the Airtricity League side, who take on the 19-times Swedish champions in their own backyard with a group of semi-pros who had to take time off work to get here.

Yet Drogheda defender Alan McNally feels that this could turn out to be one of those memorable European nights, if they can build on last week's scoreless draw and spring a surprise in tonight's second leg.

The bounty on offer to Mick Cooke's side is a second cheque of €100,000 from UEFA and a third-round clash with Hibernian, but there is far more at stake for these players: this is an opportunity to make history by stunning the 1979 European Cup runners-up.

"We've seen a lot of their games now, so we know what to expect. In the final third, they are dangerous, and when they have the ball at the back and in midfield it is a slower process as they are prepared to move it around," said McNally.

"I don't think they played as well as they could have in the first leg, so we need to be prepared for their quick link-play and their one-touch football. It's up to us to keep our shape, try to limit their chances, and see if we can get an away goal.

"Concentration will be key in this game. We have to try to nullify their threat. They are expected to win, but we have a real chance of winning the game and there is belief in the squad that we can do it."

Five years ago, when Drogheda were among the league's biggest spenders and targeting the Champions League, McNally's quotes would not have been out of place. But times have changed and tonight's task is far greater than many predict it to be.

Currently second in the Allsvenskan, Malmo boast a roster packed with full internationals. Following last week's dire first leg in Tallaght, the Malmo supporters demanded answers from manager Rikard Norling over his failure to swat aside a team of part-timers. Tonight is his chance to answer them.

"We will have a more aggressive game plan now. We have created the possibility of progressing through, if we play good and win. But we will play a more attacking style this time," said Norling.

If only it were that easy, then the Swedes would already be booking their trip to Edinburgh and asking about Pat Fenlon's tactics. But the chance to set up a showdown with Hibs is as much on Cooke's mind as it is on Norling's.

"The pressure is all on Malmo. We know that even if we go one down, it only takes one goal for us to jump in front and that's why the away goal is so crucial. There will be no need to panic because of that away goal, if we can get it," said Cooke.

Before they trot out onto the crisp surface at Malmo's home tonight, Cooke will simply tell his players to stand tall and create a little piece of history for themselves.

MALMO (probable): Dahlin; Albornoz, Jansson, Johansson, Ricardinho; Hamad, Friberg, Halsti, Forsberg; Eriksson, Rantie.

DROGHEDA UNITED (probable): Sava; Daly, McNally, Prendergast, G Brennan; Byrne; O'Conor, Cassidy, O'Brien; O'Neill, Hynes.

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