Football/Soccer

Glentoran hope to take advantage of Mothewell's slow start in Europa League showdown

The Glentoran players celebrate after last week's preliminary round win over HB Torshavn. They face Scottish Premiership outfit Motherwell tonight. Picture by Pacemaker

Uefa Europa League first qualifying round

GLENTORAN will hope to make life uncomfortable for struggling Motherwell when they run out at Fir Park tonight (7.45pm) for the first leg of their Uefa League qualifying clash with the Scottish side.

The Steelmen, who finished third in the Scottish Premiership last season, have endured a difficult start to the current campaign, taking just two points from a possible 15 and failing to score in four of their five games so far.

It has been a troubling time for Lisburn man Stephen Robinson, who was strongly linked with the vacant Northern Ireland job before Ian Baraclough was confirmed as Michael O’Neill’s successor in June.

And, speaking after Saturday’s disappointing 1-0 home defeat to Hamilton Academicals, Robinson suggested a lack of confidence was killing them.

"They are boys who go into their shell when they get criticised,” he said.

“We don't have a magic wand, or a magic cheque book to change the personnel. We have a decent squad but people are under-performing. You are not going to win football matches if your strikers are not in form, whether you're Rangers, Celtic, Aberdeen or Motherwell.

"This was a game we completely dominated yet they had a side who were willing to put bodies on the line. When it came for us to do the same, we didn't do it. I won't criticise individuals, it's collective responsibility. Is it a concern for Thursday? That's stating the obvious."

Those difficulties should give a boost to the Glens who, in comparison, come into tonight’s game full of confidence after last month’s Irish Cup success.

A host of new faces have freshened up Mick McDermott’s squad since, while they marked their return to the European stage for the first time in five years with a 1-0 victory over Faroese outfit HB Torshavn – the free-scoring Robbie McDaid bagging the winner at The Oval last Thursday night.

Fellow Irish League side Coleraine will also be in action tonight when they face a daunting trip to Slovenia to take on NK Maribor (7.45pm, live on BBC Sport NI website).

Maribor are a seasoned European side, having made it to the Champions League group stages in 2013 after eliminating Celtic in the final qualifying round, as well as in the 2017/18 season when they were hammered 7-0 by Liverpool.

The Bannsiders made it through to this stage after securing their first win in the competition last week, James McLaughlin’s late strike seeing them past San Marino’s La Fiorita at The Showgrounds.

However, a difficult task for Oran Kearney’s side has been made all the more challenging as they will be without key trio Curtis Allen, Steven Douglas and Jamie Glackin. Striker Allen and defender Douglas miss out due to work commitments, while winger Glackin is injured.

League of Ireland Premier Division table-toppers Shamrock Rovers will hope to seize a major opportunity to progress into the second qualifying round when they host Finnish outfit Ilves Tampere at Tallaght Stadium tonight (8pm).

Facing a tougher task are Dublin rivals Bohemians, as they take on Hungary’s Fehervar this evening (5.30pm). Like Rovers, Bohs are flying high in the League of Ireland but will be up against it at Arena Sosto.

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Football/Soccer