Pat Fenlon: 'The tie is still dangerous at 0-0 but we've got a handle on them now'
Pat Fenlon was frustrated at not being able to get a good handle on FC Progrès Niederkorn prior yesterday's Europa League first qualifying round, first leg.
Having survived the hell hot conditions in the Grand Duchy, the Shamrock Rovers boss now sees the Luxembourgers as a devil he very much knows.
Despite Rovers deserving their 0-0 draw at the Stade d'Oberkorn last night to remain warm favourites ahead of next week's return leg, Fenlon also knows that it's a precarious scoreline.
"Of course the tie is still dangerous at 0-0," said Fenlon.
"But we know more about them now. We have to get a good gameplan and make sure we go through.
"We've no league game before it, so we've plenty of time to work on them, make sure we are ready. We'd hope to have a few players back by the time they come to Dublin as well
"We've got a handle on them now and know where we can cause them problems.
"But I'm sure they'll be thinking the same thing, thinking about coming to us and getting an away goal.
"It's game still very much on."
Two brilliant second half saves from Rovers goalkeeper Craig Hyland were the key highlights of what was the proverbial game of two halves.
Despite the stifling 30 degree heat, Rovers utterly dominated the first half - Marty Waters glancing a header from Simon Madden’s cross narrowly wide signalling their intent after five minutes.
Mikey Drennan then pounced on a defensive mistake to shave the outside of a post nine minutes later.
Gary McCabe’s clever feet carved another Rovers opening within a further seven minutes - the midfielder beating two men only to scuff his shot wide.
But Progrès came into it more as the half wore on and their dangerman, Giuseppe Rossini, saw his lob come back off a post a minute before half-time.
The Luxembourgers were much better after the break and Hyland had to make his first telling save with a superb reaction stop from Rossini’s header from Sebastian Thill’s cross in the first minute after the restart.
Not surprisingly in the muggy heat, the tempo of the game dropped as the game wore on before Rovers had Hyland to thank again for the save of the game on 74 minutes.
Olivier Cassan had a shot blocked away, but the ball sat up nicely for Thill and the midfielder’s curling shot with the outside of his left foot was brilliantly touched away one-handed by Hyland.
Rovers didn’t create much in that second half, but on the evidence of the first, Fenlon must feel quietly confident of getting through at Tallaght Stadium next Tuesday night.
"I suppose we haven't been beaten, which is important," said Fenlon.
"We would've liked to have nicked a goal, obviously. I thought early on we probably could have scored.
"We started really well and had three great chances which would have put the game to bed early on.
"We had good chances. When you come away in Europe, if you score early it can demoralise the home team a little bit as they know it's an uphill battle.
"If we'd taken one or two of the chances, it's game over. But credit to them, they had a go at us in the second half.
"We were then hanging on a little. But I thought the back four defended well at times and our goalkeeper has made some good saves."
The heat undoubtedly took its toll on Rovers in that second half.
"I said it to Hendo (Dave Henderson), I've been to some hot places like Ljubjlana and Split, but that was probably the warmest I can remember," said Fenlon.
"It was a difficult day for the players. They worked tremendously hard and they probably ran out of a little bit of steam."
All the focus is on the return now, with Fenlon far more confident.
"Look, we haven't lost, which is important ahead of the second leg.
"It had been difficult to get a lot of information on them. So we've seen them now and know what they have and know what they are about."