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Andy Waterworth: Linfield can build on proud Europa League record

By Stuart McKinley

Andy Waterworth's personal situation sums up the difference between the two teams from opposite ends of the island of Ireland who will meet in the Europa League tonight.

While Cork City's full-time players have been able to focus on their second-leg clash with Linfield and the Blues travelled down for the game on Tuesday, work commitments meant Waterworth made the journey by train yesterday afternoon.

The Linfield captain isn't, however, trying to get his excuses in early if the Blues miss what he describes as "a great opportunity to progress" despite the 1-0 defeat in last week's first qualifying round first leg at Windsor Park.

"When the draw came out people were saying that it was probably the worst we could get, but as players we never looked at it like that," said the 30-year-old.

"We felt we could win. We gave a good account of ourselves in the first leg and it was only after 70 minutes that their superior fitness came into play.

"We were disciplined, had a game plan and they were coming up after ripping teams apart in their own league, but they couldn't break us down before that and even then it took a penalty for them to score.

"They are mid-season while we have only been back for two weeks, so it's difficult, but we will have learned from the first-leg.

"We know we need to score, but that doesn't add any more pressure than I always feel as a striker and if we play well enough we can get through."

Linfield have progressed in Europe in each of the last four seasons, but have never had to turn around a first-leg deficit. They have scored in all but one of their last six away ties though, and that gives Waterworth belief.

"If we don't go through it would be a chance missed, partly because we believe we are on a similar level and partly because of the expectation to be successful in Europe," said Waterworth.

"A one-goal lead can be turned around very quickly."

Waterworth believes Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 exploits can benefit the Blues. Young striker Paul Smyth spent a couple of weeks training with Michael O'Neill's squad in France, while goalkeeper Roy Carroll only stepped off the plane last Monday night before making his Linfield debut last Thursday.

"It was a brilliant experience for Paul and it will stand him in good stead," said Waterworth. "He is our superstar, but we don't want to put too much on him.

"Roy has fitted in straight away. There are no airs and graces about him and having his experience can only be good for us."

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