St Patrick's Athletic host Skonto FC in the second leg of the First Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League tomorrow night as Liam Buckley's side aim to turn around last week's 2-1 defeat to the Latvian side (kick-off 7.45pm, Richmond Park).
A 21st minute goal from Saints' top-scorer Aaron Greene had the Inchicore side in front last Thursday, however a first half equaliser from Arturs Karasausks and a 65th minute strike from Vladislavs Gutkovskis have given the side from Riga a narrow advantage.
The Saints however will look to get the result to put them through to the next round, with the likely opponents in the next to be either Debrecen (Hungary) or FK Sutjeska (Montenegro), however the Hungarian side have a 3-0 lead heading into tomorrow's second leg.
With a strong home record in Inchicore in European competition (one defeat in their last 12 games), Saints' manager Liam Buckley believes his side can progress and get the result required tomorrow night, citing that he expects his side to improve on last week's performance.
"Last week was a very tough game," the Pat's boss admitted to stpatsfc.com. "We played really well in the first half, but unfortunately went in level at the break. We picked up a few knocks and had to use up all of our substitutes so that wasn't ideal either, but we got the away goal which could prove crucial at the end of this tie."
Tomorrow's game is the first game in Europe for the Saints in Richmond Park in two years, and Buckley believes that the comforts of playing at home, coupled with the backing of the home crowd, can help his side progress.
"We've had some great nights as a club in Richmond Park in European competition. For me, our win over Široki Brijeg three years ago was a magical night, and the crowd really helped us get over the line."
"If we can get the crowd behind us on Thursday night, that could be the difference between getting through and not. Hopefully the Pat's supporters will make it out to the game in big numbers, as if we can have a capacity Richmond Park behind the players that will be massive for us."
Buckley revealed that only Sean Hoare is missing from the Saints' squad for the UEFA Europa League second leg, confirming that the defender suffered a hamstring tear last week, however he is hopeful that the defender will not be on the sidelines for too long. The Saints' boss expects skipper Ger O'Brien and Christy Fagan to be available for selection after they limped off in Riga with knocks.
Having played in European competition with the Saints and with Sporting Fingal previously under the management of Liam Buckley, a European second leg and the need to get a result is an experience that midfielder Conan Byrne is familiar with. Speaking to stpatsfc.com, the winger who turns 30 years old on Friday said that the Saints' squad know where they can improve on from last week's performance.
"Last week we were a bit poor in a few situations so we've worked hard in training since we got back from Riga to put those things right and hopefully we'll see the benefit of that on Thursday night. They're a good side and have one or two very impressive technical players, so we'll need to perform well to turn things around."
"However we are confident in our own ability and know that if we play to our potential, and with our record in Richmond Park and with the crowd behind us, we are capable of getting the result we need."
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