Stevens 'tired of moral victories' as Hoops target first Euro points
THE prospect of lifting the league trophy next week will raise spirits but the prevailing mood was frustration as the Shamrock Rovers players travelled home from Greece after a third successive Europa League group-stage defeat.
Certainly, the reaction in the aftermath of the loss to PAOK contrasted from the feeling of exhilaration that followed a credible performance against Spurs at White Hart Lane.
This was different. PAOK are a good side, who delivered a passing tutorial in the first half on Thursday evening, but there was a sense of opportunity lost in the dressing-room after the 2-1 reverse.
After trailing at the break, Karl Sheppard's equaliser gave hope to the League of Ireland champions.
It was quashed by a superb strike by Portuguese winger Vieirinha. Remember the name.
"You get a bit tired of moral victories," admitted defender Enda Stevens.
"We have played some good football -- we are no pushovers, and we always get chances in games. It's just about taking them.
"We were all cut up in the dressing-room after the game. I don't think they (PAOK) liked defending much.
"When you get on the opposite side of midfield, you are probably just one pass away from doing damage, but it's finding that pass that is the hard part.
"We want to set down a marker and get some points. We feel we have a right to be out there and we want to prove that."
Goalscorer Sheppard was equally disappointed.
"No one is thinking along the lines that we're happy to take part in this and have some fun along the way," he said.
"We are serious about what we do, and we had a chance. They were rattled at the start of the second half.
"When PAOK come to Dublin we'll be going for the win, no doubt about that.
"They are a good side, they pass the ball nicely but we have shown that we belong here -- we deserve to be in the Europa League and we're worth our place at this level."
PAOK coach Laszlo Boloni admitted that he was 'angry and nervous' on the bench after Sheppard's equaliser. And he anticipates a tough test in Dublin in two weeks.
"I saw their game against Tottenham and against Rubin Kazan and I think they have a few interesting players that I like.
"I like very much the No 21 (Ronan Finn -- a sub on Thursday), the No 8 (Stephen O'Donnell) and the No 9 (Gary Twigg) who wasn't here (he missed the game through injury).
"I wish them the best in their league. But not against us."