Wednesday 22 November 2017

Stevens backs Hoops to keep cool in Partizan cauldron

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

A hostile welcome awaits Shamrock Rovers in Serbia next week, but full-back Enda Stevens feels that a big turnout of Partizan Belgrade fans could work to the Hoops' advantage.

The League of Ireland champions fought back from a goal down to rescue a draw from Thursday's first leg of their Europa League play-off tie and they require a mammoth display in the return leg to make a historic advance to the group stages.

Partizan are renowned for their vociferous and passionate support, which should make for an intimidating environment.

However, highly regarded Irish U-21 international Stevens, who has improved rapidly in the left-back role, believes Rovers are suited to that situation.

"For me, personally, the bigger the crowd, the better the occasion, we play better," he said. "I think we're better away from home. We do the job defensively and can create chances, so who knows what can happen?

"If we can get their crowd against them at the start of the game, that will be a massive boost. We've got to start well. They started quickly against us on Thursday and we've got to do the same to them."

Stevens, who is one of the full-time players on the Rovers books, is enjoying the club's European adventure and knows it could lead to bigger and better things.

The Drimnagh lad feels his style is suited to European tests.

"It's a slower game up to a point," he said. "You can pick your passes. But then, when you reach a certain point, it's quick, quick, quick.

"In our league, it's 100 miles an hour from the start. The full-backs don't get as much time on the ball as they do in Europe."

Rovers are back to the bread and butter of league fare in Galway tomorrow when manager Michael O'Neill will rest some legs, with Thursday's lucrative Europa decider in mind.

"I suppose players on the periphery can be frustrated, but it's up to them when they get their chance to take it," said the manager.

Irish Independent

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