Underdogs for a change - but we can do it...

Published date: 11 July 2017 |
Published by: Barrie White 
Read more articles by Barrie White  Email reporter


The New Saints’ interim boss Scott Ruscoe has admitted his side will be the underdogs in their Champions League second qualifying round clash with HNK Rijeka in Croatia tonight.

TNS head to the Croatian champions hoping to avoid defeat in the first leg ahead of the return clash at Park Hall next week (7.45pm kick-off).

Ruscoe says he and Steve Evans have done their homework on the Croatian side after waiting to see if Saints made it past FC Europa in round one and is expecting a massive test.

“I’d say we’re going into this as the underdogs,” said Ruscoe.

“When you play in a league that has Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb, and you win it by losing only two games all year, plus the cup, then you’re a strong European side.

“It’s going to be a test. It does suit us a bit as underdogs as there’s no pressure on us to win this tie. The players and staff will give it their all and we can raise our game too.

“It’s not like we’re playing an unseeded side and we’re expected to win.

“We know how tough this is going to be, with a full crowd of 6,500 so it’s going to be good atmosphere.

“The temperature will be in the mid-30s with a late kick-off. We are the underdogs and we want to keep the tie alive before we bring them back to Park Hall.

“We did a lot of homework on HNK last week once we knew we were facing them. We’ve seen the last four games they’ve played, who played in it, how they played and we know their dangers.

“They’ve got a lot of experience, with players from Romania, Switzerland and obviously a few Croats. We know what their starting XI will be and their subs.

“They’re a good, well-organised side with lots of technical players – it’s going to be a good test for us.”

Ruscoe insisted TNS’s excellent win in Portugal last week was a perfect way to answer any criticism after Europa won the first leg in Oswestry.

He also suggested there may be another formation change as TNS look to keep the tie alive.

“After the first leg, there was a lot of negativity – not from within the club, but from people who wanted to see us fail,” he added.

“That result proved we’re still strong and that we stick together, and the players are behind the staff.

“After the game, we were unified and you could see the emotion in the group. We put a lot of negativity to bed.

“In Portugal, we did tinker a bit. We still played two centre forwards but they just helped us out centrally, where we controlled the game. We had wide forwards who helped the full backs out when we were defending.

“It was a formation we hadn’t used before and I liked it. We trained with it for a few days and then we used it.

“There may be a change in formation as we’ll be looking defensively in Rijeka. I don’t think we can match them up, but we can work defensively to stifle them. If we went 4-4-2, we’d get played off the park.”

Chris Marriott will miss the game as he is still out injured.

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