Buckley urges Pat’s to draw on past glories and ‘take tie back to Dublin’
St Patrick’s Athletic supporters have, rather greedily, become accustomed to European runs in recent seasons.
And while Skonto Riga will put up a real challenge in the Europa League in Latvia this evening (5.00 kick-off, Irish time), Saints manager Liam Buckley maintains that his side’s admirable away record can get them over the line and into the next round – and secure a €200,000 bonus from UEFA.
Skonto’s wide-open home ground is anything but a cauldron of hate – though the Latvians have pulled a fast one by charging visiting fans €10 for match tickets while locals have to shell out just €5 – and Pat’s have won here before, against another Riga side in 2008.
“Our performances away from home are good, and if we can keep that up here we have a good chance of progressing,” said Buckley, pointing on that the club’s only defeat in their last four away ties in Europe was against German opposition.
“In Hannover (in 2012) we lost but we played well, we got draws in Lithuania and Bosnia and we drew 1-1 away to Legia Warsaw last year. You live and learn.
“In the away game with Legia we went to get something out of the match, but in the home leg we sat back too much and didn’t get hold of the ball. We kept the ball well in Warsaw, but didn’t to that at home.
“So I want us to keep good possession here, and take the tie back to Dublin so we can get through.
“It’s a fine line in Europe – we were unlucky to lose to Zalgiris two years ago – and we just need to get over it.
“Skonto are in and around the same level as us. They will be physically strong, they have some big players, they have a variation on their set-plays, but there’s not a lot between us and them.”
The Saints trained at the match stadium in Riga last night and boss Buckley expects the trio of Chris Fagan, Killian Brennan and Conan Byrne – who all sat out Friday’s league win over Longford Town due to injury concerns – to be fit.
Skonto, beaten in the Europa League by Derry City in 2009, are back in Europe having been banned last season due to financial irregularities; they are unbeaten in their last five league games.
But coach Tamaz Pertia will not call on Mindaugas Kalonas, the Lithuanian international who won a league in his time at Bohemians (2008) – his contract was cancelled by the club last week for “disciplinary reasons”.
Skonto Riga v St Pat’s,
live, Setanta Ireland 1, 5.00