After an incredible European campaign for Bit O’Reid, Sligo Rovers boss John Russell is hopeful his side can now move up in the league and secure European football next year.
Overs suffered a massive 5–1 defeat against Viking at Viking Stadium on Thursday night, effectively ending Rovers’ European campaign.
Russell’s side were down 2–0 after half-time, losing both Adam McDonnell and Gary Buckley to injuries.
It got worse in the second half, as Rovers conceded three more runs and a late penalty from David Kavle would not change the result.
“We knew we were going to level up tonight, I thought we deserved to be in this round, we beat Motherwell home and away. I knew Viking was a serious outfit, the atmosphere, the stadium, the occasion, This is where you want to be.
“As a club, this sport has a huge learning for us, we look to be back at this stage again next year. The challenge now for the players is to get back into the European venues and push right for the rest. weather.”
Russell is expecting further news on injuries to McDonnell and Buckley today (Friday), but he expects the latter to suffer serious injuries.
It was a tough night for Bit O’Reid, but after a historic campaign with Rovers reaching the third qualifying round for the first time, Russell still felt a sense of pride in his players.
“A really tough night,” admitted Russell full-time. “Viking is a serious outfit, I thought we had a game-plan coming up, it goes out the window in the first ten minutes, we concede two goals and two guys go away.
“Obviously Adam goes and then Gary gets injured, it looks like it’s a bad one for him. I thought in the first half we settled into the game in the last 10 or 15 minutes, we were threatening to change Were, Aidan Keena, a chance or two, I thought Carl and Will broke up really well.
“We could have taken one out of set-play, if you go back to 2-1 you’re back in the game. Even at half-time, the message to the players down 2-0 was ‘Look, we There’s a danger’ At the break, let’s try and stay in the game, keep it 2-0 and then you go in the second half so quickly again.
“It was back to the wall. They’re a serious outfit, they get the ball rolling so quickly, their counter press is unbelievable and it was a really tough night. Sorry for the travel support to spend the money coming in.” Over and watch your team beat, it was the scoreline.
“I should be proud of the players, the way they dug. It was a tough environment tonight, tough game the way it went. We have to regroup now, we’ve got a league game on Sunday and then we’ We have to try and perform for our home fans on Thursday night.
Upon reflection at full-time, there was no sense of disappointment coming from Russell, it was always going to be a difficult task for Bit O’Reid, who finished third in the Eliteserien last season.
“It’s funny, you do so well against Motherwell in the second round, beat them at home and away and then you come into this game and I myself knew it would be serious with the analysis and the players they had but you can’t do it right now. Also want to come in and make a game plan and try and put it on them.
“Especially in the first game. But the way the game was played, giving up so quickly and players getting injured, it bothers you a bit. I have to give credit to the boys, I know the scoreline is not a good reflection on the group but we can’t blame the effort of the players and the boys coming off the bench. It’s a huge learning for us to move forward as a group and as a team. ,
The game was still alive at half-time, with Rovers only down 2–0 at the time.
Russell and his players will think they are better than what they showed last night. But he wants his players to regroup for the home leg.
The game is sold out, and Russell wants his players to attend a show at The Showgrounds for a large crowd.
Russell Blues: “It was nice to only come down 2-0 at half-time, even though we had a few chances on the counter, it’s been a tough night and a lot of the boys are hurting because we thought we’re in today The night is better than what we’ve produced, but sometimes you have nights that turn things against you, you accept early in both parts, hurt and stuff interrupts you.
“We have to bounce back and regroup, the important thing for us is that when we face Viking in Sligo next week, we will have a packed house and we want to do well for our home fans.
“We have to analyze the game. These are serious outfits. We need to keep them from scoring goals defensively.
“They are such a threat, one or two of their goals probably came from our own build up when we got caught. Their counter press is so good that were open. We definitely need to watch that for the home leg. Our next priority is Sunday.
“The players want to play in Europe, you want to play across the field. On Thursday we’ll have a packed showground, great opportunity.
“We are in the third round, the boys have made history this season, they will want to go out and do well.
“European nights are special. The challenge for the group is whether we can do one show better against Viking. There’s no doubt the boys will want to do that.”
Rovers hosted Boh at the showgrounds in the league this Sunday, before turning their attention to European action again this Thursday.