Anderlecht talk banned as Bohs bid to finish job
THE quaint village of Oswestry, Shropshire, England, the home of Welsh League champions The New Saints, is not what you'd call a cauldron of hate or a hostile venue for visiting teams.
It's one of the strange backdrops to the second leg of this Champions League second qualifying round tie between Bohemians and TNS (7.0).
Then, there is the fact that the League of Ireland team, who may have more supporters than the hosts, are red-hot favourites to beat the Welsh champions, even though Bohs hold only a 1-0 advantage from the first leg.
You can also throw in a dramatic appearance by Mike Tyson at the Gypsies' hotel yesterday -- he trained and rested there before a speaking gig in nearby Wrexham FC last night.
Interest among the rival fans is so different that Bohs instantly sold out their official allocation of 400 tickets for the 1,000-capacity venue, while TNS were last night still trying to flog tickets to their supporters -- a big task for a club whose average home attendance is 300.
"It's not a typical European venue," reflected Bohs manager Pat Fenlon as he prepared his side for a training session at the Park Hall ground last night. "We went to Salzburg last year and played in a magnificent stadium; this time it is going to be like playing in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, with a stand on the side.
"But you have got to put that out of your head and concentrate on getting the job done and getting through.
"It is different because you expect to be playing in a hostile atmosphere. That gives you an incentive more than anything else. It's just important that we approach the game in the right manner."
For Fenlon, the key to that is banning all talk of a potential meeting with Belgian aristocrats Anderlecht in the next round and focusing on the job in hand, despite the rewards on offer should Bohs get past TNS, with the Dalymount club certain to pocket at least €500,000 and guaranteed at least four more games in Europe.
If Bohs get through tonight but then lose to Anderlecht, they will be parachuted into the Europa League for at least two more games.
Anderlecht will have spies at the game tonight, but Fenlon has avoided any advance scouting work on the Belgians.
"We haven't done anything whatsoever on them (Anderlecht). If things go right, we'll do a bit of work. We've just been spending a lot of time on TNS to make sure we didn't miss anything," said Fenlon.
"I feel with the players we have -- whether it's Raffaele Cretaro and Paddy Madden or Jason Byrne and Paddy Madden or Aaron Greene and Paddy Madden -- and with the wide players in the team, we are capable of scoring goals.
"Wherever we've gone, we've proven that we have good enough attacking players and fellahs who can score goals. We created four or five good chances at Dalymount so that gives us a good chance.
"Obviously it will be more difficult to do that here, but I think we have a good chance of scoring."
Bohs will start as favourites, not only due to their fitness levels -- clearly superior in the closing minutes of the home leg -- but also because of their recent form. The Gypsies are unbeaten in nine games, with three wins and three clean sheets in their past three outings.
Cretaro was unable to train last night, but Fenlon will give the Sligo native until just before kick-off before making a final call on his team.
Otherwise, Bohs have a full squad to pick from, apart from long-term absentees Steven Gray and Anto Murphy and the suspended Gareth McGlynn.