Saints playing it cool as Icelanders arrive ready for Europa League battle

Having knocked them out at the same stage last year, it’s somewhat a case of the devil they know for St Patrick’s Athletic when they face ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar at Richmond Park tonight in the UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round, first leg.

While ÍBV had a bad start to their league campaign, they are now on form after four wins on the spin and lie fourth in the Icelandic top division. Similarly to St Patrick’s, they are also regarded as stronger than last year.

“I know quite a bit about them from playing against them last year,” said St Patrick’s left-back Ian Bermingham of that 2-1 aggregate win. “They are a big physical team, but they like to keep the ball as well. It will be a test for us.

“They’ve changed a few things, but we have a new team as well. We’re quietly confident.”

New signing Anto Flood’s registration should come through in time, though, due to a lack of match fitness, the striker is at best likely to make the bench.

An ankle injury to Chris Forrester sees manager Liam Buckley forced into a change on the right side of his attack. John Russell returns in central midfield having missed last Friday’s win over Shelbourne with a calf injury.

“I think it’s going to be tight,” said Buckley. “Looking at last year’s game, they had their chances at the end. It wasn’t like Pat’s got through comfortably. And they’ve certainly improved.’’

While insisting the players may have come back down to earth from last Friday’s sensational 4-0 win over arch-rivals and champions Shamrock Rovers, Bohemians midfielders Ryan McEvoy wants the crowd to remain on a high and offer the same level of support when Thór Akureyri visit Dalymount Park.

Despite their relative youth and inexperience, Bohemians go into the tie as favourites against Thór who were relegated to the Icelandic second division at the end of last season. They qualified for Europe as beaten cup finalists.

“We don’t really know a lot about this team,” said McEvoy. “But they won’t know a lot about us. They’ll be looking at our result last week and that may work in our favour.

“But we need to just totally forget about that,” added McEvoy. “This is a different game. We need to get at them from the start and hopefully pull off something like last week.”

Nonetheless, that win over Rovers has Aaron Callaghan’s side brim full of confidence.

“It’s perfect timing,” added McEvoy. “It’s come quickly. I’m kind of glad that we are at home too because I’m hoping a lot of people will come. They’ll be really supporting us now. The feeling is good in the stand, you can feel it on the pitch.”

Striker Dinny Corcoran has now recovered from a shoulder injury and is expected to be passed fit for selection.

Despite their isolation on the north coast of Iceland, Thór, who’ve lost their last two league games to lie fourth in the second division, have players from Serbia, Slovenia and Sweden, as well as an Italian-American in their squad.

Tonight’s fixtures (7.45pm)

UEFA Europa League, first qualifying round, first leg: Bohemians v Thór Akureyri; St Patrick’s Athletic v ÍBV Vestmannaeyjar.

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