Belfast Telegraph

Early Seaview strike crucial to Euro glory: Craig McClean

By Graham Luney

Craig McClean says Crusaders will look to strike an early blow at Seaview on Tuesday night and put Skenderbeu on the ropes.

The Albanian side will arrive on the Shore Road feeling the job is done after coasting to a 4-1 victory in the first leg of the Champions League second qualifying round scrap.

Jordan Owens netted his fifth European goal for the Hatchetmen but strikes from Hamdi Salihi (2), Bakary Nimaga and Bernard Berisha left Stephen Baxter's side chasing a European miracle.

Left-back McClean, however, knows their opponents face a weary journey to north-Belfast and he's hoping they will be in for a big shock at Seaview.

"My understanding is they have been unable to secure a charter flight and they must fly to Austria, then on to London and then Belfast," said McClean.

"That's not ideal preparation for a Champions League tie and hopefully when they do get here they will have the attitude that the tie is over.

"They are a very strong side, probably as good as Rosenborg when we played them, but the 4-1 scoreline was a bit harsh on us.

"We have nothing to lose and will have a real go at them. The plan will be to score early and put them under pressure.

"If we lose it will still be great preparation for the season and we were just really happy to be playing in an electric atmosphere in the warm conditions over there.

"The crowd was so noisy it was very difficult to hear instructions when we were shouting things like 'man on' and 'open your body.'

"We are part-time players who travelled home straight after the game and many of us had work to go to when we got home so this is fantasy football and a great learning experience for the boys.

"They have some fantastic players including Bernard Berisha who is difficult to keep an eye on. Their pace and movement is superb but we don't fear anyone at our ground."

Crusaders will welcome back skipper Colin Coates for the second leg but Jordan Forsythe is out with an ankle injury.

Meanwhile, Cliftonville fans bid an emotional farewell to their legendary striker Joe Gormley at Solitude last night.

Gormley was back at the ground where he earned hero status though this time he arrived with his new club Peterborough United.

The former Crumlin Star hotshot joined Posh on a three-year contract at the start of this month.

Gormley scored 40 goals in 2014-15, including five hat-tricks, breaking the club's record for goals in a season.

The friendly finished 6-0 to United with, inevitably, Gormley on the scoresheet.

Before the match there was a minute's applause in memory of club physio Brendan Lynch who passed away earlier this month.

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