Shamrock Rovers -v- FK EkranasTue, Jul 17 2012
Stephen Kenny’s side enter this tie hoping that European competition might offer some respite from the difficulties that the club has suffered in domestic competition recently.
Rovers’ league form has been patchy with only one win in their last six games, a 3-2 win away at Shelbourne. They have also registered four draws against opposition as diverse in quality as Monaghan and Dundalk on one hand, and St Pats and Cork City on the other. But it is the 4-0 defeat away to derby rivals Bohemians three weeks ago that offers itself as a barometer of the club’s current unhappy status.
Last season Europe provided the Hoops with enough heroic tales to keep their fans going for years to come, and the hope will be that this season’s competition can offer a little space for the class of 2012 to re-group and find their way forwards.
Aaron Greene and Ciaran Kilduff will both miss out through injury while their are doubts over the fitness of Ken Oman who suffered a dead leg in the game against Dundalk last Friday.
Speaking in the build up to the game, Stephen Kenny said “Ekranas have won their league four years in a row, and they’ll have no fear coming here. But we have done well at home this season, and our aim is to continue that tomorrow night.
“The players gained a lot of experience in last year’s campaign and that should stand to us over the two legs. Our results haven’t been consistent lately, but we have every belief in what we are doing, and we have confidence going into the game”.
Ekranas have won the Lithuanian league for the past four seasons and have competed in the Champions League for the past three. In 2009 and 2010 they fell at the first hurdle, going out to Baki of Azerbaijan and HJK of Finland.
But last summer Ekranas beat Valetta of Malta 4-2 on aggregate in the second qualifying round, only the second time they had ever progressed through a Champions League tie. They went out to Bate Borisov of Belarus in the next round before losing 4-1 over two legs to Israeli side Hapoel Tel Aviv in the Europa League play-offs.
Ekranas have met Irish opposition before and have a 100% winning record on Irish soil. Though they lost 2-1 on aggregate to Cork City in 2005, losing 2-0 in Lithuania when Roy O’Donovan and George O’Callaghan scored for the Rebels, they won 1-0 at Turner’s Cross a week later.
Currently, Ekranas lead their domestic league, sitting six points above their nearest rivals VMFD Zalgiris. They have lost only once in their 19 league games to date - a 3-1 defeat away to Suduva on the opening day of the season - and have won three and drawn three of their last six.
Referee: Mattias Gestranius (Finland).
In the past two seasons Rovers have played eight European games at home. They have won just one of those, 1-0 against Flora Tallinn at this stage last year.
At this point in last season’s competition Ekranas beat Valetta of Malta 3-2 away from home, while overs beat Flora Tallinn 1-0 in Tallaght thanks to a Chris Turner goal.
Ekranas have a 100% winning record on Irish soil, beating Cork City 1-0 in the UEFA Cup at Turner’s Cross in the summer of 2005.
Rovers 8/15; Draw 11/4; Ekranas 9/2.
A 1-1 draw.
Rovers Injury News: Ciaran Kilduff, Aaron Greene (out); Ken Oman (doubt).
Rovers Suspension News: None.
Ekranas Injury News: Unavailable.
Ekranas Suspension News: None.
Simon O'Gorman began reporting for Extratime in 2010. He remembers Milltown and Flower Lodge and, back in the mists of time, saw Diego Maradona play at Lansdowne Road. He now lives in Co Kildare and reports on Shamrock Rovers among others. Simon can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org