Fagan targets away goal in Saints' tricky European trip
Christy Fagan hopes the Europa League can bring out the best in him once again as St Patrick's Athletic begin what they hope will be the start of another continental adventure in Vilnius tonight.
Fresh from hitting a brace in the league win over Bray last Friday, Fagan now turns his attention to a competition he's scored four times in over the last two years as the Saints take on Lithuanian side Zalgiris (7.10 kick-off).
The 24-year-old striker netted for Bohemians against Ljubljana in 2011 and then hit three goals as Pat's beat Icelandic side IBV and then Siroki Brijeg of Bosnia last year before being knocked out by Hannover.
"It's been going well for me. Touch wood, I'll manage to get a chance and stick one in tonight," said Fagan. "I think we will score. We're confident we can come here, create chances and keep it tight at the back."
Both sides go into the first-round first-leg tie top of their leagues and Fagan expects there will be little in it over the two legs. "They'll come into it fairly confident, given their position top of the table. But likewise we're coming here feeling confident that we can nick something."
Fagan relishes the extra tad of time and space he gets in European games, though he's less happy at the attention some unscrupulous defenders may administer.
"They can be a bit stand-offish, but they can be a bit dirty as well," said Fagan. "They don't mind leaving a boot in or pulling and dragging out of you."
Given their experiences of recent years, manager Liam Buckley is quietly confident St Pat's can keep the tie alive for next week.
Zalgiris are in scintillating form this season, sitting six points clear at the top of the Lithuanian 'A Lyga'.
They could start with up to eight internationals, marshalled by 84-times capped Andrius Skerla in central defence, while the big threat up front comes from Polish international Kamil Bilinski.
But Buckley has done his homework and believes his side can do themselves justice.
"We need to bring our 'A' game to this," said Buckley. "I've no doubt we'll do that.
"We're a decent team and it's how we pass it and how we play as a team that will dictate how we get through this tie. They are top of their table having won 14 of their 17 games. They've scored 47 as against just six conceded.
"They've beaten Ekranas, who beat Shamrock Rovers last year, 2-0 and 3-0. But, equally, we're top of our table and got to a cup final last year."
Midfielder Killian Brennan comes back in having served a domestic suspension to give Buckley a full-strength squad.
Zalgiris (probable) – Vitkauskas; Vaitkunas, Skerla, Peric, Silenas; Zulpa; Svrljuga, Kuklys, Komolov, Radavicius; Bilinski.
St Patrick's athletic (probable) – Clarke; O'Brien, Kenna, Browne, Bermingham; Russell, Bolger, Brennan; Byrne, Fagan, Forrester.