Thursday 22 February 2018

Buckley calls on Saints to hold nerve

IN YEARS gone by, League of Ireland clubs failed to keep it together when the pressure cranked up on a big European night. But St Patrick's Athletic held firm to reap their rewards.

Picking up a UEFA cheque worth another €100,000 is welcome news for the Inchicore outfit, although the big bonus was just overcoming Icelandic side IBV after two nail-biting legs.

Chris Fagan's goal at Richmond Park gave Liam Buckley's team a slender advantage as they trekked out to Vestmannaeyjar, an island off Iceland's south coast, but the heat was only turning up.

A late goal for the hosts forced the tie into extra-time and when they scored again the European adventure looked to be all over for the Saints until substitute Stephen O'Flynn netted the all-important away goal.

Relief was the overriding emotion in the Saints camp afterwards, with captain Conor Kenna insisting that it took discipline, effort and a few slices of luck to get through the tie.

"It was a tough game and we had to battle right to the end to get something out of it, but everyone played their part and we're delighted to get through," said Kenna.

It won't get any easier as the Saints travel to Bosnia and Herzegovina next week to take on Siroki Brijeg -- a team that head scout Dave Campbell has been busy swotting up on.

Manager Buckley acknowledged that his team simply must shake the nerves that affected them against IBV.

They certainly have the quality to trouble teams on this Europa League run, but everything must be improved on -- starting tomorrow in a league clash with Drogheda United -- because they cannot solely rely on battling displays to keep on progressing.

"Sometimes you just don't play as well as you want to," said Buckley. "We've got work to do if we are to progress further, but the experience of this game will help us in that regard."

Irish Independent

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