Belfast Telegraph

Crusaders face a Goliath task in holding out Wolves at Seaview, says Lowry

 

Cautious approach: Philip Lowry believes the Crues cannot afford to go gung-ho against Wolves at Seaview
Cautious approach: Philip Lowry believes the Crues cannot afford to go gung-ho against Wolves at Seaview

By Graham Luney

Crusaders midfielder Philip Lowry feels his side must attack Wolves with caution in the big Europa League showdown at Seaview tonight.

The Premier League big guns lead 2-0 in the second qualifying round and are expected to finish the job in style on the Shore Road this evening (8pm).

But Stephen Baxter's men can take tremendous heart and encouragement from their first leg showing when they frustrated their glamorous opponents for long spells at Molineux.

The north Belfast side produced a heroic defensive performance, and the fact that the players were disappointed with the 2-0 scoreline at the finish reflects their titanic effort.

Ruben Vinagre's injury-time strike felt like a bitter ending to the game as the only other occasion the visitors were rocked was when Diogo Jota lashed in an unstoppable strike in the 37th minute.

Rather than the floodgates opening, the Crues kept their shape and discipline and left England with the praise of Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo sending them home with a spring in their step.

Wolves are expected to complete their mission in front of a packed Seaview this evening but they know the Crues will be hungry to produce another performance to be proud of.

After the daunting first meeting, Baxter said it was his proudest moment at Crusaders over a 20-year spell as player and manager.

"That's the best performance I've ever seen from us," he reflected. "It might be a little bit different (in the second leg) with a 3,000-capacity stadium and plastic pitch."

Former Linfield ace Lowry expects his side to be a little more adventurous in the second leg but he suggests it would be crazy to charge at their opponents from the start.

"They are that good a team it would be foolish for us to be gung-ho in the hope of getting a goal because they will pick us off and they will want that," said Lowry.

"It will be much the same for us, try to frustrate them for as long as possible and maybe get some fresh legs on and maybe take advantage of a set-piece.

"If we can keep it at 0-0 going into the last 20 then who knows? But it would be an absolute Goliath task to keep them at bay for that long given their quality.

"We will look to enjoy ourselves, work extremely hard and see where it leaves us."

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

Wolves are relishing being back in Europe after a 39-year absence and they aren't in the mood to make an embarrassing slip-up against the Crues.

Whatever happens at Seaview, the Crusaders players will never forget the night they graced the Molineux pitch.

"It's definitely up there as one of the best nights in my career," added Lowry.

"It was ultimately disappointing at the end because of how long we held out for.

"If you had offered us 2-0 before the game we probably would have snapped your hand off.

"For the tie not to be over at this stage is an unbelievable achievement.

"The whole trip was something special.

"It was a bit frightening and daunting to face Wolves when you look back at their results from last season. They were beating teams like Manchester United and Arsenal, sometimes with ease.

"But we set up well and took it 15 minutes at a time. It's a respectable scoreline for us when you compare the two squads.

"We are happy with 2-0 and you never know what can happen at Seaview but I expect them to go up a few gears again."

• Derry City striker Eoghan Stokes has joined Cork City after his short spell at the Brandywell came to an end.

The 23-year-old joined the Candystripes in February but struggled to nail down a place in the starting line-up.

Stokes moves to a Cork side who have scored only 20 goals in 25 League of Ireland games this season.

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