| 6.3°C Dublin

Euro run can give us boost in league

SHAMROCK ROVERS defender Ken Oman believes his side can put recent defensive horror shows behind them and gain a serious foothold in Europe tonight against FC Ekranas at Tallaght Stadium.

After their captivating European odyssey last season which took them to the Europa League group stages, there is a huge sense of expectation surrounding the Hoops this season.

Victory in the tie would guarantee Rovers advance to the next Champions League qualifying stage with the added benefit of a place in a Europa League play-off spot should their plans come undone there.

Last season's victory over Flora Tallinn at this stage was the springboard for the greatest ever foray into Europe by an Irish side and the Hoops' 29-year-old skipper Oman is looking for more of the same this term.

"It's a huge game, this is the one that if you get through this game you're obviously going to be guaranteed four more games in Europe but we're not looking past this game," he said.

Respect

"We have to treat them with respect and, focusing on this game, the main thing is not to concede. We have to go and attack and getting a win here is imperative."

Rovers are not in the same kind of form this year after being on the receiving end of some serious drubbings from St Pats, Bohs and Sligo on the road.

They have conceded four injury-time goals at home which have cost them eight league points.

Oman believes the timing of tonight's game is perfect and is adamant that the squad has not been adversely affected by recent on-field struggles.

"I think it's a good distraction having Europe. We don't doubt our own ability and our own confidence, I think everyone else is doubting us," he added.

"We know they are a good side but we definitely don't have any fears.

"The confidence in the squad is not low and it's a good distraction from the league. Usually when you go into Europe Irish teams tend to raise their game and maybe it'll bring some form back into the league.

"We don't seem to be getting the breaks, I think against Pats they only had two chances and took one late on.

"There have been a lot individual errors and the players have to hold their hands up for that, we all have to do a lot better.

"League form doesn't come into it in Europe but defensively we have to be a lot better.

"We know the expectation levels are high after last year."

Aaron Greene and Ciaran Kilduff are both out for the Hoops tonight but it was another attacker Stephen Kenny chose to focus on during the pre-match press conference. The Tallaght native expects Rovers' most prolific goalscorer, Gary Twigg, to end his European hoodoo and finally grab a goal against foreign opposition.

"There has been a lot of stuff about Gary Twigg, for example, the fact that he had never scored at either Turner's Cross or the Brandywell," Kenny said.

Capable

"He went to Turner's Cross and put it right and then people said he never scored at the Brandywell and he's scored twice there this season.

"There has been a lot of talk that he hasn't scored in Europe, he's well capable of doing that. I'm backing him to come good and do the business for us."

Kenny is wary of the Lithuanian champions, especially the speed of their wide men and their counter-attacking potential.

"The players have had a couple of DVD sessions, we're well aware of their strengths and weaknesses.

"They are an experienced team, they've won the Lithuanian league for four years in a row. Seven of their players have played on the Lithuanian national team, plus a Serbian player, an Ivory Coast and a Nigeria international.

"They have a lot of experience at the back in midfield and quick wide players.

"They essentially would play 4-4-3 and their full-backs do a lot of attacking.

"They're the seeded team so from that point of view, they are ranked higher than is but we certainly don't have any inferiority complex.

"We are going to try and win the game that is our ambition."