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St. Patrick's Athletic boss Liam Buckley was pleased with the 1-0 win over Jeunesse Esch in Richmond Park on Tuesday night – but he believes the Saints will need to improve on their second-half performance to finish off the tie in Luxembourg next week.
Christy Fagan's 10th minute header ensured that Pat's will travel to Esch-sur-Alzette with a lead, but the striker passed up two further opportunities to score in a first-half the hosts dominated. Ian Bermingham and Graham Kelly also missed the target with headers from decent positions before the break.
Esch regrouped in the second-half and almost equalised twice through striker Patrick Stumpf – and with opposition manager Carlo Weis expecting a crowd of 2,000 in the Stade de la Frontière for the return leg, Buckley is aware that it's still all to play for in this Europa League first qualifying round tie.
“No, not really, I thought they'd be where they are. I just expected us to be a bit better, I'll be straight,” Buckley replied when asked by assembled media post-match if Esch had been stronger than anticipated.
“I would want that second-half better. I said it to the guys down in the dressing room, I think we all appreciate that there's a better performance in us, and we'll probably need that next week because I can see them stepping up.
“They'll have a bit of life in them because it's still only one goal in it, it's an open tie from their end of it. From ours, we go and score, we make it difficult for them which we intend to do.”
The Saints came into this tie on the back of a poor run of league form which has seen them lose their last three games on the bounce and win just three of their last ten league matches. Despite Esch's second-half fight-back, Pat's won and kept a cleansheet in their 26thappearance in a European game in Dublin, and Buckley was keen to dispel a sense of overall disappointment with the result.
“In fairness, they've worked hard, they've kept a bit of possession, they had one or two chances themselves,” said Buckley. “Just overall – I'm chuffed, I'm delighted, we've won, it's a win, there's not too many wins you get in Europe from that end of it – but I just want us playing better. That's the bottom line.
“And I know if we play better and pass it better, we'll get more results. The results are a by-product of playing well, so if we get that fluency in our game where we chip the ball around, back in, back out, back in and we create our chances and all that sort of stuff, but we're still...today was just a little bit hit-and-miss.”
The Inchicore outfit had 11 attempts to Esch's four, but just four of those tested away 'keeper Marc Oberweis – a survivor of his team's Europa League clash with Dundalk in 2014. One of those chances found the back of the net, making Fagan Pat's all-time leading goalscorer in Europe with five goals. Instead of worrying about the conversion rate, Buckley has called on his side to create more goalscoring opportunities.
“Listen, we did get a few chances. Having played up front, you won't score every chance you get, but the more chances you get, the more goals you will get,” said the former Pat's, Shamrock Rovers, KSV Waregem and Racing Santander frontman.
“There's a fair percentage you normally get from that end but we just need to create more chances. I want us to create more chances through our general play and we have to be better. If we do have our general play better, ie, keep the ball better and keep possession of it, they won't have it.
“There's less defending you have to do, less opportunities they get [when] you're in possession of the ball...and be aware of what you're trying to do.”