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Motherwell expecting ‘tough game’ in Europa Conference League clash with Sligo Rovers

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Ireland U21 winger Ross Tierney is in the Motherwell squad to face Sligo Rovers in the Europa Conference League on Thursday

Ireland U21 winger Ross Tierney is in the Motherwell squad to face Sligo Rovers in the Europa Conference League on Thursday

Ireland U21 winger Ross Tierney is in the Motherwell squad to face Sligo Rovers in the Europa Conference League on Thursday

Motherwell may still be in pre-season, but manager Graham Alexander insists they are ready for the challenge Sligo Rovers will pose at Fir Park on Thursday.

After finishing fifth in last year's Scottish Premiership, this Europa Conference League tie (kick-off 7.45) is Motherwell's first competitive fixture of the new campaign.

Sligo progressed last week, eventually overcoming a determined Bala Town side on penalties. Rock-bottom UCD produced a big upset on Sunday though, defeating John Russell’s side 2-0 on their home patch.

It was UCD’s second win of the season, and a first defeat for Russell since he took the job last month.

Alexander accepts Sligo may have an advantage in match fitness but will not make excuses and is determined to make it difficult for the visitors.

“We know Sligo are ahead of us in games because their season is already underway, but we have to compete on all different levels and be adaptable,” said Russell, ahead of the second-qualifying round first-leg tie.

"Sligo are a good footballing team, they can be expansive, they have got the right players in the right positions to be a successful team. The harder the challenge for us, I think the better we perform.”

The sides met four years ago in the Irn-Bru Cup, with Motherwell Colts winning 2-0. The hosts travelled to Austria for a pre-season training camp and beat SK Vorwarts Steyr 5-1.

They faced Partick Thistle in a friendly on Saturday, winning 1-0 as former Bohemians midfielder Ross Tierney went close to a second.

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“We are expecting a tough game but the biggest aim for us is to make sure they have a tough game,” Alexander continued.

"We’ve seen quite a few of Sligo’s games, and we obviously watched the two European games. We had somebody at their game on Sunday. What we have to do is focus on how we prepare and not get any excuses ready. Mentally the players are ready for this challenge.”

Sligo are hoping Colm Horgan, Seamas Keogh and Greg Bolger will be fit to feature, having missed Sunday's league defeat. The Bit O’Red may also be without Ed McGinty, who was born in Motherwell.

The Ireland U-21 international is set to join Oxford United, following his penalty heroics last week. The goalkeeper was not involved on Sunday, as Luke McNicholas started.


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