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Crues can give Wolves a huge fright: Hegarty

 

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Hunting Wolves: Chris Hegarty

Hunting Wolves: Chris Hegarty

Hunting Wolves: Chris Hegarty

Chris Hegarty insists Crusaders' Europa League adventure is not over, even though they trail Premier League giants Wolves 2-0 going into tomorrow's second leg at Seaview.

Nuno Espirito Santo's side needed an injury-time strike from Ruben Vinagre to double their advantage following a disciplined defensive performance from the Crues in front of nearly 30,000 fans at Molineux.

There were fears the Crues would suffer a heavy loss in the second round qualifier but the visitors were rocked only twice with Diogo Jota's 37th-minute goal breaking the deadlock.

Wolves, who are back in Europe after a 39-year absence, found Stephen Baxter's men a tough nut to crack but they will look to finish the job in style at Seaview tomorrow (8pm).

Former Dungannon Swifts skipper Hegarty said: "They won't enjoy coming to Seaview.

"They are used to bigger and better grounds, so you never know.

"We had a scoring opportunity over there when Rory Hale had a shot and if you can get a goal from somewhere you can give them a bit of a scare and make the tie interesting."

Wolves' new signing, Spanish centre-back Jesus Vallejo, who joined on a season-long loan deal from Real Madrid, could make his debut at Seaview.

The winners will meet either Czech side FK Jablonec or Armenia’s Pyunik in the third qualifying round, with Pyunik taking a 2-1 lead into their second leg.

Hegarty, who played a key role in the Crues’ rearguard action, would like to see striker Jordan Owens come to the party in the rematch, and he insists the Crues aren’t dead and buried yet.

Owens replaced Ross Clarke in the 61st minute at Molineux but he may be handed a starting role at Seaview.

“We will keep a good defensive shape again and try to get the ball up the pitch a bit more,” added the former Rangers ace.

“I don’t think there will be much change to our tactical approach. Stephen (Baxter) might start with Jordan Owens as he’s a big threat and he was still beating their centre-halves in the air, he’s a real handful.

“That shows you how good the big man is.”

Vinagre’s late goal felt like a hammer blow to the Crues as keeper Sean O’Neill will be disappointed he didn’t gather the ball to avert danger.

But, on reflection, it failed to take the gloss off what was a magnificent performance at a ground which has brought pain to sides of the stature of Liverpool and Manchester United.

“The ending was a bit disappointing but Sean pulled off decent saves in the first half, and if anyone had said to us before we went out it will be 2-0 we would have bitten their hand off, so we can’t be too disappointed about anything,” said Hegarty.

“We had spoken a lot about our game plan in the run-up to the game and on the day.

“We worked hard on it in training and it was nice to see it unfold.

“Everyone stayed strong and solid and kept their concentration for the 90 minutes.”

Raul Jimenez gave Wolves extra bite when he came on for Ruben Neves in the 58th minute and Hegarty was impressed by the Mexican.

“The player who came on, Raul Jimenez, lifted the tempo and was very good,” added Hegarty.

“Adama Traore was very good but Jarlath (O’Rourke) had a terrific game. They are all magnificent players.

“At times I was looking around me and not sure who I was marking, the movement was that good. You were looking over your shoulders constantly.

“I got Conor Coady’s shirt. He’s a gentleman, he waited for me at the changing room door and handed it over, that was very nice of him.

“Hopefully we can give them another big test on Thursday.”

While Vallejo could make his Wolves debut, another new Molineux arrival, Milan forward Patrick Cutrone, will not be eligible to feature.

Cutrone will undergo a medical this week but he won’t be registered in time to face the Crues.

Belfast Telegraph