Mahon: Vital to keep back door shut at home

ST PATRICK’S ATHLETIC will have to walk an ages-old European tightrope tonight when they take on ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar of Iceland at Richmond Park in the second leg of their UEFA Europa League first qualifying round tie (7.45pm).

One goal down from the first leg, Pat’s know that they must score to keep their European hopes alive — but, equally, any concession of an away goal could spell the end of their campaign.

“Our opponents are a good team and people should be under no illusions about that,” says manager Pete Mahon. “We will have to be at our very best to beat them but that’s what we want to do because we intend staying in this competition.

“From what I’ve seen of them I know that we can create chances against them. What we have to be careful of though, is that we don’t concede the away goal. While we will create chances we would have to have a lot of good spells in the game in order to score three goals and that will be very, very difficult against this side.”

Victory for Pat’s over the two legs would almost certainly set up an onerous long-haul trip to Kazakhstan but that doesn’t diminish Mahon’s appetite for success.

“Even though the travelling in the next round wouldn’t be ideal it’s important for us to stay in this competition for as long as we possibly can,” he says. “It’s great experience for the players and myself and it’s a good opportunity to pit your wits against coaches and players from different countries with different ideas. If we get a result tonight we won’t care where we have to travel so the focus is on getting through this round.

“It will be my first match managing St Pat’s in Europe at home and it’s an important occasion for me and the players. And I hope the St Pat’s fans really come out to support the team. If we get a big crowd we can get the place rocking from the start, get at them and make it difficult for them.”

Influential midfielder Dave Mulcahy (knee and calf) is the Saints’ main doubt ahead of the game. Derek Pender is suffering from a bruised instep but should be available. Stephen Bradley has an abscess on his tooth and is undergoing a course of antibiotics to ensure he is 100% fit for the fray.

In domestic news, Shamrock Rovers have confirmed that manager Michael O’Neill has enlisted former Northern Ireland teammate and ex-Ipswich boss Jim Magilton to assist him while he considers candidates for the role as his assistant.

O’Neill said: “I thought Jim’s other commitments would prevent him helping me at this crucial stage of the season. So I was delighted when he said he would assist me until I find the right candidate.”

* Fulham go into their Europa League encounter at Faroese minnows NSI Runavik tonight boasting a 3-0 lead from the first leg at Craven Cottage, with the winner set to face Irish League side Crusaders.

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