Friday 27 April 2018

Clean sheet key for Drogheda says upbeat Cooke

Gareth Maher

CONFIDENCE rather than trepidation is what Mick Cooke insists his Drogheda United team are feeling ahead of tonight's Europa League clash with Malmo at Tallaght Stadium (7.45).

The club is returning to European action for the first time in five years when a lucky night for Dynamo Kiev and Adam Hughes' late miss denied them passage through to the Champions League.

Now it is the Europa League they are focused on with a third-round qualifying tie against Hibernian on offer if the Louth outfit can find a way past the 16-times Swedish champions.

The Boynesiders look to be up against it as they prepare to take on a team sitting fourth in the Allsvenskan, but Cooke is upbeat about causing an upset in Tallaght Stadium.

"A good result would be a two or three-goal lead going to Sweden, but hopefully we can keep the tie alive going over there. If we can not concede an away goal and can go there with the game still alive, you have every chance then," said Cooke.

Inconsistency has hurt Drogheda this season and their last game in Tallaght ended in a 7-1 hammering to Shamrock Rovers in the Setanta Sports Cup final.

Still, Cooke is excited about his first foray into Europe as a manager and he has done his homework on Malmo, with assistant Robbie Horgan sent on a spying mission to their recent games.

"They are a quality side. If they had won the other night, they would have gone top of the league. And they are a very young team – their average age is just 22, they have lots of U-21 internationals – so certainly we won't be treating them with any contempt," said Cooke.

"It will be our 27th game of the season, but I don't complain about that because the more matches you have shows the more success you are having."

Unlike the star-studded team that Drogheda had on their last European adventure, they are a mid-table side now and have rarely showed the zip and flair that won them the EA Sports Cup last year.

However, Malmo boss Rikard Norling will be taking nothing for granted.

"We expect to play a team that will be very organised and they also have some really skilful players. We have to do our best and hope we are good enough to beat another good team," he said.

DROGHEDA UNITED (Probable) – Sava; Gannon, McNally, Prendergast, G Brennan; Cassidy, O'Conor, Byrne, R Brennan; O'Neill, Hynes.

MALMO (Probable) – Dahlin; Albornoz, Johansson, Jansson, Ricardinho; Hamad, Halsti, Friberg, Thern; Rantie, Eriksson.

REF – E Aleckovic (BIH)

Irish Independent

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