Belfast Telegraph

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Coleraine's opponents vow to improve on 'embarrassing' first leg display

By Graham Luney

Spartak Subotica boss Vladimir Gacinovic has promised Coleraine his side will be a lot hungrier in tonight's Europa League rematch but the Bannsiders are ready to stand firm.

A brilliant performance from Oran Kearney's side in Serbia has left the first qualifying round tie finely balanced at 1-1 but the late penalty converted by Mile Savkovic has given Gacinovic's men a lift.

It was a stroke of fortune they certainly needed as Coleraine's battling performance left them so frustrated that the manager apologised to fans after the game.

"I would like to apologise to our supporters for an embarrassing performance, particularly in the first half," reflected Gacinovic after the game in Novi Sad.

"Our goalkeeper dropped the ball but we played better in the second half. I felt we didn't deserve to lose and I think we can perform much better in the second leg."

But the Bannsiders believe they have a good chance of progressing in the tournament to earn a glamour tie with Sparta Prague in the next round.

Darren McCauley's first-half strike was Coleraine's first goal in Europe in 15 years and Kearney, who returns from his holiday to the dugout tonight, will look for a few more this evening.

Lyndon Kane, Steven Douglas, Graham Crown and Josh Carson are unavailable but the Showgrounds faithful will still believe their side can march on in Europe.

Trevor McKendry, who was in charge of the side alongside Paul Owens and John Gregg in Serbia, said: "The penalty was disappointing but we would have settled for a 1-1 draw before the game. The tie is alive.

"I can't fault the effort and commitment of the players. I thought they were magnificent against a very good side who knock the ball about very well.

"They are technically gifted players and we knew it would be difficult.

"We have a young group of players who have grown and showed good discipline.

"They will come on to us and they will be coming to win - they know they have to score.

"We've got to be solid and compact like we were over there and we're going to have to work very hard if we hope to get through."

Boss Oran Kearney said: "The boys gave a fantastic account of themselves and it gives us something to look forward to."

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