Saints up for Minsk mission
St Patrick's Athletic midfielder Mark Timlin is hoping that this week's trip to Belarus for a Europa League tie is more memorable, on and off the field, than his last visit there.
The Saints squad this morning began their trek east to prepare for Thursday's Europa League second round, first leg tie with Dinamo Minsk.
It's a very stiff test for the Dublin club whose miserable run of domestic form continued with Saturday's 1-0 loss to Sligo Rovers, especially as Dinamo are seasoned campaigners in Europe and are aiming to make the group stages of the Europa League for the third season in a row.
Donegal native Timlin knows how hard it can be to get a result out there: two years ago he played in both legs for Derry City as they lost 5-1 in Belarus (6-1 on aggregate) to Shakhtyor Soligorsk.
"It wasn't the best trip I have had in my life, it was pretty awful," says Timlin of that trip to Soligorsk, 140km from the capital, Minsk.
"The hotel was shocking, a few of the lads tweeted photos of their beds as the beds were tiny, and the food wasn't great. Overall it was a disaster as the game was bad as well, we lost 5-1 out there, we were 2-0 down at half time and they hammered us again in the second half. But they were a good side, they beat us 1-0 at the Brandywell but we got off lightly as they could have scored a lot more.
"Hopefully, because this week's game is in the capital, you'd expect that the hotel and facilities will be better," added Timlin.
Pat's earned their place in the second qualifying round by defeating Luxembourg side Jeunesse Esch last week on away goals. That was a hard-fought win and some in the Saints camp have pointed out to detractors who questioned the quality of the opposition that Aberdeen only just got past a Luxembourg side.
But Timlin is aware that Minsk on Thursday will be a step up in class. "It was a better result than most people gave us credit for, it was all about getting through the round. We made hard work of it in Luxembourg, we sat in, instead of taking the game to them and maybe that was a case of nerves but we have learned a lot and we'll be ready for this one," he says.
"We have done a bit of work on Dinamo already and we'll look at them some more once we get there later today. We will be well informed, but we know already they are a good side. We have our work cut out.
"But this team is capable of scoring, Pat's have scored in their last few away games in Europe. Chris Fagan scored away to Legia Warsaw and I can see us scoring, we can't go out all guns blazing but I feel we can at least keep the tie alive for the home leg."
Timlin is also aware that the Saints must try and find something extra as their league form is so poor. "It's hard at the minute, four defeats in a row is not great and we need to lift that, get together and find out what's wrong," he says.