Dundalk midfielder Chris Shields is hoping his side can take inspiration from their memorable victory over BATE Borisov three years ago when they welcome Slovan Bratislava to Tallaght Stadium tonight (Tuesday).
Back then Stephen Kenny’s side had lost 1-0 away in Belarus before running out emphatic 3-0 winners in the second leg to book themselves a place in the 2016/17 Europa League group stages.
Having also lost the first leg at the Tehelné pole courtesy of Davíd Holman’s 86th minute winner last Wednesday, Dundalk will need something similarly special to that BATE performance to set up a Europa League play-off against either Ajax or PAOK.
While much has changed since then, Shields said the similarities between the two games were hard to ignore ahead of the second leg.
“Yeah, you have to take inspiration from nights like that,” he said when BATE was mentioned.
“We’ve been there and done it before. There’s no point in saying you’re dead and buried now. It’s only half-time and we’re only 1-0 down.
“We’ve been in this position before. BATE were maybe a better team with more European pedigree at the time so you’ve got to back yourself. There’s no point in feeling sorry for ourselves.”
Despite his optimism, Shields admitted the late nature of Slovan’s winner was tough to take but backed his side to bounce back in Tallaght.
“It’s disappointing with the timing of the goal but it’s a similar position to what we’ve been in before and I think we’re capable of scoring at home.
“We were weathering a storm for a period and the period maybe just went on a bit too long for our own liking. Then to concede a goal late on is just a bit deflating but you’ve no time to feel sorry for yourself. We’ve just got to bounce back into it.
“It looked like it was just going to be one of them nights where you put your body on the line and it works out. Gary made a few great saves and I thought myself and the back four defended quite well. We were keeping their clear cut chances to a minimum I thought but it’s just bad luck then.
“How often do you see a shot hit off the post and go straight into a man’s path? That’s just the rub of the green that you need in Europe and they’ve got it rather than us.”
The midfielder said his side would take heart from the chances they created though heading into the second leg.
“I’d say we had the better of the clear cut chances but you have to be so clinical in Europe.
“When you see a wonder save like that at the end you know it’s not going to be your night but we just have to dust ourselves down and go back at it again on Tuesday.”
Shields also said Tallaght would suit his side.
“It’s a better pitch and I’m sad to say it’s a better ground. It’s a good grass pitch and we always seem to play better on grass, particularly in the condition it is in at the minute.
“It should be the makings of a good game. Hopefully we can empty Dundalk and have the majority of Dundalk in Tallaght there to help us on like their 9,000 were tonight to cheer them on,” said the 28-year-old.