Dundalk head coach Vinny Perth has called on his side to be brave as they bid to turn things around against Slovan Bratislava in Tallaght Stadium tonight.
Having lost last week’s first leg in Slovakia 1-0 courtesy of Davíd Holman’s 86th-minute strike, the Lilywhites will have to do things the hard way if they’re to set up a Europa League play-off against either Ajax or PAOK next week.
Despite failing to get the away goal he desired at the Tehelné pole stadium last week, Perth said he took plenty of heart from the first leg and believes there’s a big night in his side to come.
“I felt we weren’t brave enough and that’s not like us,” said the 43-year-old. “That’s the challenge, to be a little bit braver. We’ve to keep the door closed as well and be pragmatic at times but I’d like to see us be a bit braver in the final third.
“I thought we controlled the ball lovely at times in the first leg but I just want them to be braver now and just believe in themselves and I think if they do that, then there’s goals in them.”
Dundalk have managed to find the net just once in five European games this season to date but that’s not a stat that is concerning Perth ahead of the game.
“Ultimately we came away from the game the other night really disappointed. Yes, we rode our luck a little at times but that’s what happens at the level that we’re operating off.
“I think there’s a big moment to come from someone. I think there’s goals in our team, I really do,” he said.
While Dundalk need goals, they can also ill-afford to concede as even one goal for Jan Kozak’s side would leave the Louth men requiring three to advance. Despite this, Perth said he had full confidence in his side to get the job done.
“I think our defence this year has been solid.
“I’ve probably come in for a bit of criticism personally for how we’ve played at times this year but I think we’re starting to see a bit more balance in us.
“The midfield three over the last couple of weeks has given us a bit more balance. We’ve been putting square pegs into round holes a little bit over the season but to be where we are with what we’ve had to deal with in the third round of Europe and seven points clear in the league, I think we’ve come a long way.”
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“I’ve watched the first leg back twice already and I think that was our best European performance in a while albeit we gave away a few chances but we created some too. We were a bit more like ourselves.”
While the odds are stacked heavily against Dundalk, Perth said he was not giving up on his side’s play-off ambitions.
“I love European football. It’s my favourite part of the season.
“It’s how you test yourself and ultimately it’s the pinnacle of football for Irish players and we don’t want it to end now and that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Dundalk will be without Robbie Benson once again as he continues his recovery from a rib injury while Jordan Flores, Dean Jarvis, and Stephen Folan are also set to miss out.