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Buckley: Heat suits you, Sir'

ST PATRICK'S Athletic boss Liam Buckley is expecting a huge test of ability and endurance when his side take on NK Siroki Brijeg in tonight's Europa League second qualifying round first leg tie in the hot and humid Bosnian town.

A Stephen O'Flynn goal in extra-time booked the Saints' passage through in the last round but that was in 14 degree sunshine not the damp 25 degrees expected come kick-off at 9pm local time.

Certainly the Irish summer has not provided them with the conditions to acclimatise for the game.

Buckley is a relieved man that the game is not two hours earlier when it would be 10 degrees hotter, and the weather conditions are only one of the potential problems Pats will be posed in Pecara tonight.

"The weather will be an issue however as the temperature is supposed to be 35 degrees during the day, and about 25 at night. So with the humidity, it'll be tough for us," Buckley admitted.

Siroki Brijeg, while boasting a squad of mainly Bosnian-born players, have a strong contingent of Croatians and include 34-year-old Brazilian midfielder Wagner in their ranks.

Wagner, who chipped in with eight league goals last season, is expected to be one of many threats from the home side tonight. Croatian striker Mateo Roskam and former Bosnia Herzegovina international, Dalibor Silic (the Siroki captain) are two others.

Buckley and his backroom team have been doing their homework on the opposition and he feels there is a tough night ahead for his charges.

"Siroki Brijeg are a good side, they've either won or finished runners-up in their domestic league and cup for the past few years," he said.

"We've seen a few DVDs of them from league games and from the cup final they played in last season, so we know it'll be a tough game but it's one we're looking forward to."

St Pat's come into the game on the back of a disappointing 2-0 defeat to Drogheda at Richmond Park which saw them slip behind their Louth rivals into third position in the Airtricity League Premier Division. A significant improvement will be needed tonight if the Saints are to gain a serious foothold in this tie and their match sharpness should be an advantage.

Tonight's game will be Siroki's first competitive game since the Bosnian League concluded although Buckley played down the impact the break would have on their European rivals.

"Their last competitive game was at the end of May, they would've had a few weeks off and they've now been back around three weeks and had a few preparation matches in the past couple of weeks," he added.

"I don't think they will have lost much fitness so I don't see it being an issue for them."

St Pat's will be without the injured Mark Rossiter (long-term knee injury) and Pat Flynn (concussion) for the game, but striker Christy Fagan should make a welcome return to the starting line-up and Pat's fans will be hoping he can bag a precious away goal to put them in the driving seat.