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Goal scorer Doherty insists Coleraine still right in the mix despite first leg defeat at Velez

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Opener: Ben Doherty was on target for Coleraine last night in Bosnia

Opener: Ben Doherty was on target for Coleraine last night in Bosnia

Opener: Ben Doherty was on target for Coleraine last night in Bosnia

Coleraine goal scorer Ben Doherty believes the Bannsiders are still in a good position ahead of their UEFA Europa Conference League second leg with Bosnian side FK Velez.

Oran Kearney's side lost the first leg 2-1 in Bosnia on Thursday night, with the hosts coming back to take the win thanks to two penalties after Doherty's early opener at the Stadion Grbavica.

Lyndon Kane was sent off midway through the second half but Coleraine managed to hold on to keep the deficit at one heading into next week's second leg, which will be played at Mourneview Park in Lurgan.

But despite now knowing they must win by at least one goal to force a shoot-out or two to win the tie outright, Doherty is pleased they are still in the mix with the return leg still to come.

"Coming here we knew what we were in for. We didn't know much about them but we know you don't get it easy in these European games. We knew our own strengths coming into the game and we tried to implement that," said the midfielder.

"Compared to last year where it was on the day you knew the game was going to be over, we know we still have 90 minutes to play. On that basis, we made a selection in how we approach the game because it's two sides of the coin this week and next week. We've done our part this week and we'll see what next week has in store.

"It was a big shift and everyone had to dig in. Coming in here, I think we would have taken that result. I think those are the warmest conditions I've ever played in, and I think a lot of the boys would say the same. It's not easy to get used to. We trained on Wednesday night but it was nothing rigorous and you definitely do feel it."

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Grabbing the Bannsiders' only goal of the game was also a source of pride for Doherty, who rifled in from 25 yards to break the deadlock in the ninth minute to give them something to cling to next week.

Even better was the fact that it silenced the home crowd in Sarajevo, with restrictions being such that spectators were allowed inside the ground in Bosnia, and, while there were no visiting fans to cheer on his goal, Doherty was delighted his strike had the desired effect.

"You work all year to get to these games, this is our main stage. To score is unbelievable, especially with the atmosphere in front of their fans," added the former Derry City and Glenavon man.

"With all respect to Maribor and Motherwell, playing in front of no fans is different. I don't think many of the boys have experienced that before and even though it was all their fans, it was something different - we wanted to silence them. We scored early and it silenced them for a bit but they created some atmosphere out there."

With AEK Athens awaiting the winners in the next round, it'll be all hands to the pump in Lurgan next Thursday, and although they won't be playing in the usual surrounds of their Showgrounds home - which is currently undergoing resurfacing work - Doherty hopes 'home' advantage will be a factor.

"It'll be a different ball game next Thursday. They'll be coming to our stomping ground, if you want to call it that, and we know the ground better than they will," he insists.

"The pitch at Mourneview will suit us better, whereas tonight it was a bit more watered and they held onto the ball a lot more. We'll try and impose ourselves on the game as much as possible."


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