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Jonny Tuffey urges Glenavon to focus on fighting back

By Stuart McKinley

Jonny Tuffey is calling on Irish League clubs to forget the excuses and grab European football by the scruff of the neck.

The former Northern Ireland international will make his Glenavon debut in their Europa League clash with Shakhtyor Soligorsk of Belarus tonight, with the trip being something of a logistical nightmare for the Lurgan Blues.

The Glenavon party arrived in Minsk yesterday after travelling via Dublin and Berlin as there is no such thing as a direct flight to Belarus from anywhere in the UK or Ireland.

They have also been forced to stay in the capital city as the only hotel in the town of Soligorsk isn't up to scratch, meaning a two-hour journey by road on match day.

With a 2-1 deficit to try to overturn from the first leg as well, the odds are stacked against Glenavon, but as far as Tuffey is concerned focusing on anything that goes on outside of the 90 minutes on the pitch can only be a negative influence.

"This is just the way it is with European football nowadays," said the 27-year-old.

"We can't control where we get sent in the draw. The players leave the travel up to others to organise and we know that they will do all they can to get us to where we need to go by the easiest and quickest route.

"We know that the hotel in the town is not up to standard, but they've got us in a very good hotel and we'll be well looked after.

"Making a two-hour journey before the match isn't ideal, but it is something that we can cope with.

"All that becomes irrelevant once we get to the ground and get out onto the pitch and we have to focus on the game.

"Looking for excuses is the easy way out. What you do over the 90 minutes is what matters and if you believe that other things contribute to your performance on the pitch then it's just a cop out.

"I played for Inverness, which is right in the north of Scotland. We would have travelled for two hours before a lot of our matches. That's just the way it was and we dealt with it.

"Once you cross the white line it's about what you do out there, not how you got there."

Tuffey watched last week's first leg from the stand, with James McGrath given the nod by Gary Hamilton, but with the Fermanagh man about to get married it will be the former Linfield goalkeeper between the posts this time.

Having had a week to digest the Mourneview Park battle, Tuffey is in no doubt that Glenavon can pull off a victory, thanks to Mark Patton's late reply in the first leg.

"The goal, coming when it did, has kept the tie alive," said Tuffey.

"We had other chances where we could have equalised, if not won the game.

"Two unfortunate incidents early in the game cost us, but it's not over yet.

"If we can score first it will blow the tie wide open and they will know that another goal would put us through.

"The goal last week and the problems that we caused them have given us the belief that we can win the game and then we'll go and try to win the tie.

"If we can perform the way that we did last week then we have a real chance because although they played some nice football it was all in front of us."

Europa League: Stroitel, S Soligorsk v Glenavon 5.30pm, Glenavon trail 2-1 on aggregate

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