Bohemians aim to back up result for the ages against opponent with 'blood in our eyes'

Bohemians head to the Toumba Stadium next Thursday, where PAOK have beaten Benfica and PSV Eindhoven last year, Slovan Bratislava the previous season, and Spartak Moscow the one before one that
Bohemians aim to back up result for the ages against opponent with 'blood in our eyes'

Bohemians' Ciaran Kelly celebrates Ali Coote’s second goal. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Three games, three wins, eight goals and one conceded.

Bohemians have racked up a record at their temporary home of Aviva Stadium that its permanent residents, the Republic of Ireland, could only dream of.

Yet, the home comforts in the Europa Conference League will only endure if the Gypsies withstand the challenge awaiting them before 28,000 fans at the Toumba Stadium next Thursday.

On their patch in European competition, PAOK beat Benfica and PSV Eindhoven last year, Slovan Bratislava the previous season, and Spartak Moscow the one before one that.

“We have blood in our eyes to qualify because the game was not won by our opponents, it was lost by us,” declared PAOK boss Răzvan Lucescu afterwards.

The task facing Bohs in Thessaloniki is made that bit more surmountable by their heroics in Dublin 4 on Tuesday night.

Their 2-1 win means a draw in the cauldron will seal their passage to the play-off stage; a one-goal defeat would send the showdown into extra-time.

After confounding the pre-match soundings of a mismatch linked to the chasm in budgets, Bohs won’t travel carrying any doubts.

As their performance coach, serial All-Ireland winner Philly McMahon, will attest, willpower can trump entitlement once the mindset is correct.

Equally, a temptation to luxuriate in this feat – a result for the ages in the context of League of Ireland history – won’t be tolerated.

“Is it a win?” was manager Keith Long’s answer to the first question posed after Ali Coote’s brace set up a memorable victory.

“We’ve got an advantage at half-time in the tie. But we’re disappointed not to keep a clean sheet against a very good side.

“We tried to play the game on our terms, not showing PAOK too much respect because we had to have respect for ourselves first.

“We did that but there’s improvement in our performance, especially on what we showed in the second half.

“PAOK are a proud club and we have to go there and deliver a huge performance, actually a gigantic performance, within a partizan atmosphere.

"But our boys won’t be fazed. We don't want to put limits on the team, only to try and play in a way true to ourselves. We have to be brave and will go there with no fear."

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