At 1-1, The Ancients are very much in this tie, and manager Huw Griffiths feels his side have what it takes to upset the odds this Thursday and progress to the next round. Read on to find out more.
“A lot of the boys were humbled very quickly because after securing such a fantastic result they were back in work on Friday morning. 15 out of the 20 in the squad had worked in the morning of the game, so it comes and go so quickly.
“We will put the same performance in on Thursday again, because this group of players won’t allow anything less. The opposition are going to have to be at their ultimate best to beat us – if they don’t do that, we’ll cause some problems, because I’ve got no qualms that my lads will perform on the day.
“I think Trakai put in a good performance in the first leg, but I don’t think they were expecting to come up against us putting in a performance like we did, so they’ll be prepared for the second leg.
“I’ve got no doubts at all about my players performing, I know they will reach the same level as they did last Thursday at the very least. They’ve performed against the odds week in, week out, for so long, and why can’t we upset the odds one last time in a one-off game away from home? Why can’t we dream? We’ll be giving our utmost to represent our great league to the very best of our ability.”
The Ancients put in a fantastic performance against their Lithuanian opposition, coming away from the home leg with a 1-1 draw, but they could well have been leading the tie going into the second leg.
In spite of conceding so late on, Griffiths expressed his significant pride following the team’s performance.
“It is incredible, what we’ve achieved throughout the game to get a 1-1 draw. It is beyond anybody’s wildest dreams to be in this position, but we were a little bit disappointed to concede so late on, really.
“Don’t get me wrong, we’re facing a top side, and I think they dominated the last 20 minutes or so of the game, but up until then I thought we were more than in it and possibly deserved our lead. They had the better chances, but we knew they had quality, fitness, and a lot of options.
“I’m a hugely proud manager, without a doubt, but there is still a lot to play for and we’re looking forward to the second leg.”
Facing Connah’s Quay Nomads, Bala Town and The New Saints in the run-up to their European opener against Trakai at Park Hall last week, Druids gained an awful lot from those experiences in terms of fine-tuning their tactics and positional play.
Finding themselves on the losing side in each of the three games, Griffiths noted how the results were irrelevant in those games and how he hopes the country will have been proud of his side following their showing last week.
“We’ve had lots of preparation against the other three JD Welsh Premier League sides competing in Europe this year, and we lost all three, but it wasn’t about results in those games – it has always been about making sure we were right for the game when it arrived on Thursday.
“What we took out of our preparation was the opportunities that the games gave us to find out what combinations of players work, the distances between players, the finer details that were going to make a difference. It was never about the results, it was about learning ahead of the European tie.
“I think everybody in Wales will really have been quite proud of us last week, going with two up front and trying to attack the opposition, and we did really well to put them under pressure and come away with such a result.”
Last week was the first step into European competition for the vast majority of the Cefn Druids squad, which makes their collective performance ever more astounding, but Griffiths added how there is still more to come, whilst lauding the opportunities European football provides.
“We do have a younger element to our squad, but there was a 33-year-old in our team last Thursday who picked up a trophy at Wembley less than four years ago and he came off the pitch saying it was the proudest moment of his career, which I think shows how much the JDWPL has come on.
“Look at the chances and opportunities it gives to players. I think everyone bar Matty Owen was new to Europe – and Nathan Peate who had a little bit of time with Llandudno at that level – and not only will that make them better players for next season, but hopefully it makes them even hungrier for more success.
“It is important that we keep growing as a club, on and off the field, but to play against a team of this quality who has got to the Third Qualifying Round for three years in succession – only an unseeded side because they were founded just 13 years ago – it goes to show not just their quality, but ours too to have got the result like we did, but there’s still more to come.”