Monday 19 August 2019

Saints' steel can frustrate the Swedes, says Lennon

Confidence: St Pat’s midfielder Jamie Lennon. Photo: Sportsfile
Confidence: St Pat’s midfielder Jamie Lennon. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmauice

Scoring goals has been their weakness this season, but St Patrick's Athletic midfielder Jamie Lennon is confident that it's the Saints' defensive steel which can carry them through on the European stage.

After a three-year absence, Pat's return to UEFA competition tonight, facing Swedish side Norrkoping in the first leg of their Europa League first round tie at Richmond Park (7.45pm live on EirSport 1).

Norrkoping, who won 5-0 in their last meeting with an Irish side, against Bohemians in 1995, are not one of the big names in Swedish football, but they still arrive in Dublin with a squad packed with senior internationals.

That squad included Jordan Larsson, son of Henrik, who made his senior debut for Sweden last year, and others who have international experience with Luxembourg, Albania, Iceland and Egypt.

With 22 goals from 15 league games, Norrkoping are the fourth-highest scorers in their domestic league, while Pat's have had troubles in front of goal, with the lowest return of goals in the top six here.

The Saints have kept a clean sheet in just one of their last seven home ties in Europe, but Ireland U-21 cap Lennon feels the squad have the defensive nous needed to use the home leg as a foundation for progress.

"If you keep a clean sheet you give yourself every chance to go through, that's more important than banging in goals," says Lennon, part of Stephen Kenny's Ireland U-21 squad on duty in Toulon last month.

"We are defensively sound and if we get that one chance, we're confident that Mikey (Drennan) or Shawsy (Gary Shaw) can take it.

"We have been told that the margins in Europe are fine, the tie could come down to one set piece, one mistake, away goals are so important. We have looked at them, their strengths, we know they are a good side. We believe in ourselves and give ourselves every chance.

"They are a good side, but we are up for the challenge."

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