Monday 23 October 2017

Saints out to march on in style

George Williams in Vestmannaeyjar

IBV may be in need of a bailout tonight, but St Patrick's Athletic winger Sean O'Connor insists his team won't be in a charitable mood in the second leg of their Europa League first-round clash.

The Saints are firmly focused on progressing to the next round, where Siroki Brijeg from Bosnia and Herzegovina await -- along with another UEFA cheque of €100,000.

You can be sure, then, that St Pat's friendly relations with their Icelandic hosts, whom they knocked out of this competition at the same stage last year, will be instantly forgotten once Latvian referee Aleksandrs Anufrijevs blows his whistle (8.30 Irish time).

Liam Buckley's side hold a one-goal lead thanks to Chris Fagan's sweet finish in the first leg, but there is little chance that they will sit back and try to defend that slender advantage.

It's part of this team's DNA to attack and O'Connor says that is exactly what they will be doing tonight as they attempt to cause a few eruptions on the volcanic island of Vestmannaeyjar.

"Last week, the main aims were not to concede an away goal and to win the game and we achieved both. Now, it's all about stepping up our performance and killing them off," said O'Connor.

"We know that we can play a lot better than we did last week, but any win in Europe is a good win. It's funny, though, because a few of our supporters were not happy that we didn't win by more.

"Obviously, Shamrock Rovers raised the bar by reaching the Europa League group stages last year, but we can't be thinking that far ahead. We just want to get through to the next round."

Ballyfermot native O'Connor is a perfect example of what this Saints team represents -- he's technically gifted, moves the ball quickly, creates goalscoring chances and is desperate to achieve something.

Silverware may be the ultimate aim, although the 28-year-old feels it is just as important how that success is earned. The route-one, kick-everything-in-sight approach that other teams prefer simply does not register down Inchicore way nowadays.

SHORT PASSING

Instead, Buckley encourages his players to play. Set up in a 4-3-3 system, in which they employ a short-passing game that is designed to catch the opposition out before they settle, it has worked pretty well so far this season.

They currently sit second in the Premier Division, they are through to the last 16 of the FAI Ford Cup and go into tonight's game with a lead despite never hitting top gear last week. O'Connor, who is the latest inductee to the Saints' 100-appearances club, believes that their style of play will lead them to an extended run in Europe.

"I think our play is more suited to the European brand, where teams like to pass the ball and make the most of possession," he said. "It makes a big difference in European games if you can keep the ball, instead of chasing it all of the time. We are confident that we can do that and I don't think teams will expect it from us."

With only midfielder Mark Rossiter (knee) and striker Dean Kelly (groin) absent, the Saints have every reason to be upbeat about advancing tonight. If they do, it could be the start of something special for this team.

ST PATRICK'S ATHLETIC (probable): B Clarke; G O'Brien, C Kenna, K Browne, I Bermingham; J Russell, J Chambers, G Bolger; D Meenan, C Fagan, S O'Connor.

Irish Independent

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