Football/Soccer

We are capable of scoring against anyone: Cliftonville boss Barry Gray ahead of Euro assault

FC Nordsjaelland's Mads Pedersen (left) in action against Cliftonville's Ryan Curran during last Thursday's Europa League, Qualifying Round One, First Leg match at Solitude, The Reds trail 1-0 from the first leg

Europa League Round One second leg qualifiers

CLIFTONVILLE boss Barry Gray insists the Reds are capable of scoring against anyone – but is mindful of the size of the challenge that awaits them in their Europa League First Round Qualifier second leg against Danish outfit FC Nordsjaelland.

The north Belfast men lost last Thursday’s first leg tie at Solitude 1-0 – courtesy of a first-half goal from striker Andreas Olsen – and must score to stand any chance of progressing at the ‘Right to Dream’ stadium in the suburbs of Copenhagen tonight (6.30pm).

“Before last week’s first leg people thought we’d no chance but we only lost 1-0 and now people are saying we have a massive chance,” said Gray.

“The reality is probably somewhere in the middle. We’re playing a full-time side at their home.

“You hear all the clichés: they’re a young side, they’re inexperienced – but they’re still training seven days a week when we’re not, and you had 10 or 12 scouts from top clubs across the world in the stand at Solitude watching one or two of their players. So you can’t lose sight of that.”

Jay Donnelly is back to boost Cliftonville’s strike force with Rory Donnelly and Joe Gormley expected to lead the Reds line again.

“One goal out here for us would change the complexion of the tie completely. We can score anywhere. In the same fashion, if we concede one, it’s nearly game over.

“But we still want to keep it solid and tight in the same way we did in the first leg.”

Ruairi Harkin is expected to miss “four to six weeks” of the new season after having a “clean-up” in his knee.

Harkin missed most of last season with a cruciate injury but it’s the other knee that has proved bothersome.

“He’s just off crutches now and it was better to get it done in the close season,” said the Reds manager.

The Reds squad touched down in Copenhagen around lunch-time yesterday with no hiccups, although Gray joked: “Nobody forgot their passports, the flight was just over two hours. But it’s still early!”

Elsewhere, Irish Cup champions Coleraine have arguably the best chance of progressing in the Europa League qualification stages after drawing 1-1 in their away leg with Serbian outfit Spartak Subotica.

"Technically, they are good and put together some good passages of play," said Bannsiders boss Orna Kearney, who missed the first leg due to a family holiday but is back on the sideline for tonight’s home leg.

Gary Hamilton says it would be the “proudest moment” of his career if his Glenavon side can hold off Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s Molde team in tonight’s away leg in Norway, with the Irish League part-timers holding a precious 2-1 advantage.

"It's still very much mission impossible for us, despite such a fantastic win in the first leg, which I believe was one of the biggest of any Irish League side in history,” said Hamilton.

Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk side will be hoping they can emulate their historic rise to the group stages of the Europa League in 2016 as they carry a 1-0 advantage over Estonian side FCI Levadia ahead of the second leg at Oriel Park.

Shamrock Rovers will try to protect a 1-0 first leg advantage as they face Swedish club AIK.

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