Dundalk striker Pat Hoban feels his side will thrive as underdogs having come through a dramatic penalty shoot-out in Latvia on Wednesday night to see up a Champions League second qualifying round tie with Azerbaijan’s Qarabag next week.
Despite being the seeded side in the first round against Riga FC, Vinny Perth’s side failed to make the breakthrough in 210 minutes of football over two legs and had to rely on a 5-4 shoot-out victory.
Hoban, who scored the opening penalty for his side on the night, knows the Lilywhites will face a much sterner test next time out against a Qarabag side who have reached the group stages of the Europa League in four of the last five seasons and the Champions League group stages in 2017/18.
Nevertheless, he feels that will suit the SSE Airtricity League leaders.
“It’ll probably be better for us being the underdog to be honest with you,” said the 27-year-old.
“Riga gave us a lot of respect and maybe too much to be honest, which was very difficult because we just found it difficult to break them down. You’d turn on the ball and there were three around you but they obviously worked on something and they felt that it was going to work and to be fair it did work because they took us as far as a penalty shoot out. It’s just a great feeling to go through but we’ve a lot of work to do now for next week.
“Qarabag are a top side. They’ve been in the Champions League group stages before so it’s not going to be easy but like I said I think the underdog tag will be better for us.
“Hopefully they will come out and play a bit more against us because we’re a lot better when teams come out and play against us,” said Hoban.
The striker, who has 13 goals in all competitions so far this season, played a captain’s role on the night by consoling Dane Massey and Georgie Kelly after their respective penalties were saved but he insisted he never lost faith that Dundalk would prevail – praising goalkeeper Gary Rogers for his two saves from Stefan Panic and Armands Peterson.
“I stayed very positive. I think all the lads stayed very positive. You’ve to win it as a team and I know the feeling of missing a penalty even though it’s a different scale but the feeling of missing a penalty is not nice. Your mind goes fuzzy, your brain just freezes and it’s not a nice feeling but lads have to step up and take the penalties.
“There’s great plaudits for Gaz. He has done a lot of homework and saved two penalties which was brilliant. We’re just happy to get through.
“It’s a proud moment for me to captain the side for two games in-a-row in the Champions League. I had never played in the Champions League before so to go through is just an amazing feeling and hopefully there are bigger and better things ahead,” he said.