Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

We aren't going there just to make up the numbers, says Crusaders Sean Cleary

Rosenborg 2 Crusaders 1

Jordan Owens celebrates his goal in the opening leg with Matthew Snoddy

Crusaders new boy Sean Cleary says the Hatchetmen aren't in Norway tonight just to make up the numbers.

The Crues face a daunting task in Trondheim against Norwegian giants Rosenborg in a Europa League qualifier (6pm).

A spirited performance at Seaview sees them go into the return leg only trailing 2-1 – a considerable improvement on their 3-0 loss a year ago.

On their last Scandinavian adventure, Stephen Baxter's men suffered a 1-0 defeat but these European travels are a new experience for Cleary who made his debut on the Shore Road last Thursday.

The 30-year-old has moved across the city from Donegal Celtic to win trophies but his immediate goal is to help the Crues perform with pride on the continent.

As debuts go, a midfield work-out against full-time Rosenborg in July is no stroll in the park but Cleary acquitted himself well in the middle and he's loving this new chapter in his career.

And the former Suffolk Road favourite believes the Crues are capable of securing their greatest result on the European stage.

Jordan Owens hit a stunning opener in the first leg before Nigerian John Chibuike and Danish dangerman Nicki Bille Nielsen reasserted the visitors' authority.

"You always have to have belief and we are not out of this tie yet," said Cleary.

"Glentoran got a good result against a good side in Iceland and while we acknowledge that Rosenborg are a top team, very quick and comfortable on the ball, we will go into the match with a plan to win it.

"The players and manager have belief but of course we would never underestimate Rosenborg

"We aren't the favourites to go through to the next round but the favourites don't always win."

Progress on the European stage would certainly represent a dream beginning to Cleary's spell on the Shore Road.

"I'm really enjoying it here," he added. "I've a lot of respect for Crusaders and their manager Stephen Baxter. This is a great club and it's nice to be part of a good squad of players.

"I thought they were unlucky last year not to win a trophy and hopefully we can put that right this season. I know a lot of the boys, particularly Gareth McKeown who I used to share a place with in Derby, wee Eamon McAllister and Charlie Murphy, who I worked with at Ards.

"I did not play football for two or three years and I had family commitments but now I want to get myself in good condition and bring something to Crusaders.

"Stephen Small gave me a chance at DC and now Stephen (Baxter) has taken a chance on me and hopefully I can have a good season."

Baxter was proud of his men after a 1-0 defeat in Trondheim and his defence can expect another tough work-out.

"We fight so hard during the season for games like this and that's why we have to make the most of these opportunities," said the Crues boss. "We drive them on for this prize, to play against a team of this quality. When the league starts we will have benefited from this. Technically they are very good players, full-time professionals so there is a gulf in financial and physical terms.

"But we got close to them in the first leg and I was very pleased with the way we approached the game. This trip will be a team building exercise for us too as we'll get in the conference room and work on certain things."

The winners of tonight's battle will face Tommy Wright's St Johnstone in the next round.

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