Scott Ruscoe has told his New Saints stars not to panic ahead of their make-or-break Champions League clash with FC Europa in Portugal tonight.
TNS head to the continent knowing they need a minimum of two goals to go through – but were well off the pace in last week’s first qualifying round first leg.
Ruscoe says his players are aware their play at Park Hall wasn’t up their normal high standards, but the interim boss is upbeat about their chances of progressing.
“I’m looking forward to the game, instead of being apprehensive,” he said.
“The message is ‘don’t panic’. Europa won’t be at home – it’s in Portugal and is hardly down the road. It’s a big stadium, but our lads aren’t going to freeze as they’ve played in bigger and better.
“Their management think the game is over – but it’s far from over and we’re going to give it our best tonight.
“I don’t think it’s a case of us not turning up in the first leg but after seeing the game on video four times, seeing the goals and seeing how they set up, I thought they were more organised and better in possession than we anticipated.
“That’s not to say we underestimated them but, on the night, they had a game plan which Nified what we’re good at and hit us on the counter attack.
“If you look at the goals they scored, both were given away by us while we were trying to play football. If we hadn’t had given those silly goals away then, on reflection, a draw would’ve been a fair result.
“They don’t have to come out and score in the second leg, but our players will feel they performed well below their standards. We were fitter than them and in the second half there was a time that showed.
“We didn’t take the initiative and they broke and scored a decent goal from their point of view, but a sloppy one from our point of view.”
Ruscoe and his assistant Steve Evans have been working hard all week to get the players ready for what will be a tough task in Portugal (ko 6.30pm).
He also intimated there may be changes up front and at the back for TNS.
He added: “We’ve thought about we’re going to do and we’ve whittled the options down to two. We’ve been working on Thursday to re-address their strengths and weaknesses and put a plan together.
“The players have been told about the good and the bad and how to win the game. I’ve got over the disappointment now – I know we’ve got to create more chances, which I know we’ll do.
“No-one has a right to play – if individual players came to me and said they deserved a place in the starting line-up, I’d have to question that.
“No-one played to a level they’re consistently at in the first leg. Our players were at fives and sixes whereas the Europa players were at seven and eights.”