CONQUER Wales first and then discover Europe -- that remains the game plan in the Champions League for Bohemians after the Gypsies took a step closer to the third qualifying round of the competition thanks to a 1-0 win over Welsh side TNS in Dublin last night.
And Bohs boss Pat Fenlon has vowed that his players will not get distracted by thoughts of a head-spinning and money-spinning meeting with the likes of Ajax and Celtic in the next stage of the old European Cup as Bohs have first to make sure of a place in the third round.
The Gypsies look well-placed to progress as they got a win and a clean sheet last night, Killian Brennan's 66th-minute header the key moment of the game, but they are by no means assured of a place in the next round as TNS looked very handy at times with at least two very good chances which went wide of the target.
Before the second leg is played across the water on Tuesday -- TNS are the champions of Wales but their home ground is technically in England -- Bohs will know how much is at stake as the draw for the third qualifying round will be made on Friday morning, so the Gypsies could be heading to Oswestry with thoughts of playing Ajax on their minds, and Fenlon says he won't allow that to become a distraction until the job is finished off on Tuesday.
"I had that situation before with Shelbourne, when we got through to the third round in 2005 we knew before the draw for the third round was made that we could have got Real Madrid or a few other teams and we ended up with Deportivo La Coruna," Fenlon told the Herald.
"You do have a slight worry when you have young lads in the side like Aaron Greene and Paddy Madden, who haven't really played in Europe before, that they might start seeing the bright lights and the big names and get a bit distracted. But I don't think that's the case with us. We have good experience in the team, lads who have been around the league and also know how to play in Europe.
"On the other hand, the enthusiasm of the younger lads is a help as they will get really excited if we get a decent draw when it's made on Friday. That's not always a bad thing, I just have to make sure that they are focused when the games come around.
"I think the players know what to do now. They are a good bunch of players who work very hard and listen to what they are told.
"We were telling them for a few days before the European game that TNS were a decent side. Some people were saying that the Welsh draw was the one we all wanted but I didn't go along with that and now we've played TNS we know for a fact that they are a good side. We are aware of what we're going into for the second game.
"They are defensively strong and they have a system that they use very well, they have good movement off the ball, now we go to Wales and we'll see if we can nick another goal," added Fenlon. "Today in training and for the rest of the week, the senior players will be telling the younger lads that, for now, Friday's game at home to Sligo is the important one.
"We want to be back here in the Champions League again next year so we can't slip up in the league and need to win some matches," added Fenlon, delighted that keeper Barry Murphy kept TNS scoreless last night, the first clean sheet in eight European games for Bohs, going back to 2005.
"The good thing from last night is that we extended our run in terms of not losing games, and it was another clean sheet for us so that helps build confidence," said Fenlon as Bohs are now unbeaten in eight matches.
"You have to remember as well that some of the players are only coming back from injury, that was Jason Byrne's first game in a few weeks and Raff Cretaro is still getting there in terms of fitness. He was getting a bit frustrated with himself at times last night as the game went on."
If anyone was frustrated last night it was Bohs striker Paddy Madden. The U21 cap came into the game in a rich vein of form, nine goals in his previous five games, but a mixture of sharp goalkeeping from Paul Harrison and some slack finishing saw Madden end the game scoreless.
Madden first tested Harrison on 20 minutes after clever work by his strike partner Cretaro. Four minutes before the break Madden shot wide after Cretaro had again set him up while just before the interval Harrison denied Madden yet again.
TNS had their moments too, and striker Christopher Sharp -- a son of former Everton and Scotland forward Graeme -- caused anxiety for Bohs on 38 minutes with a good effort.
Brennan finally eased the relief of the 2,500 home fans by scoring with a rare header on 66 minutes, Madden the architect with a superb cross.
It seemed as if Madden was destined not to score as he missed two more chances late on, while Mark Quigley almost made it 2-0 when he struck the crossbar with a powerful shot on 82 minutes.
And so a win for Bohs, but one frustration for them last night was the issuing of yellow cards to two players: defender Brian Shelley in the first half for kicking the ball away after a decision went against him and then for Cretaro in relation to a foul.
If Bohs do get past TNS they will be guaranteed at least four more games in Europe (defeat in the next stage would send the northsiders into the Europa League play-off round) so those bookings could be costly. Bohs were already down a player for the TNS ties as Gareth McGlynn is serving a two-game ban in Europe after he was sent off for Derry City against CSKA Sofia last year.
"Brian's booking was a stupid one and he will pay for that unfortunately. The booking for Raff was a bit harsh, and they could cost us down the road in terms of suspensions," added Fenlon.