Ian Hughes says that his squad of players have a terrific opportunity to make history as they attempt to become the first Aberystwyth Town side to win a European tie tomorrow night against Derry City at Brandywell Stadium. (Kick-off 7.45 p.m.)
The ‘Seasiders’ will be hoping to at least keep the tie alive for the second leg return, which looks set to be played in front of a capacity crowd at Park Avenue just seven days later.
“It is a great opportunity for the players to create history,” said Hughes. “Aberystwyth has never won a European tie and it would be great not only for the club, but also for Wales.
“It’s going to be tough - the fact that Derry City have got a player who has played for N. Ireland says something, but it comes down to how much our team wants to win it.
“I’ve told the players that they deserve their special night at Park Avenue next Thursday, but they will only get it if they come back from the away leg still in a position to win the tie.”
Derry’s Brandywell Stadium promises to be a daunting venue for Hughes’s side, but he will be looking for his most experienced players to lead by example in the away leg.
Skipper Stuart Jones is one of six ‘Aber’ players to have played for Llanelli in Europe, and has scored winning goals in games against Latvia’s FK Ventspils and Scotland’s Motherwell.
Meanwhile Derry, who had qualified as the fourth-placed side in the League of Ireland last season, have plenty of experience playing in Europe, and go into the tie as favourites.
“We are perhaps going into the unknown, but we must not be intimidated out there, it’s up to our players to stand up and not let the atmosphere get to them,” said the ‘Aber’ manager.
“An away goal out there would be great for us, and I have every confidence that we can create chances, but we must keep the tie alive, knowing we have a very good home record.”
Aber have the disadvantage that Derry are already in the middle of their season, but after three pre-season friendly matches, Hughes says he is satisfied with his side’s match fitness.
“They have the advantage of being in the middle of their season, but I believe that we have given our players the best opportunity to be match fit for the game,” said Hughes.
“We perhaps have a better chance against Derry than some of the other clubs who were in the draw, but they will have done their homework on us, just as we have done on them.”
Aberystwyth had a representative at Derry’s 2-2 draw with league leaders Dundalk last Friday, whilst Derry boss Hutton was at Aber’s friendly against The New Saints on Saturday.
This summer has seen Aberystwyth strengthen their squad, with the addition of Welsh Under-19s defender Thomas Atyeo on a loan deal from English Premiership club Swansea City.
Winger Steffan Williams has also impressed after joining from Welsh League outfit Haverfordwest County, and Chris Davies has joined from Welsh Premier rivals Prestatyn Town.
“I feel that we’ve got a stronger squad this season, with players who can come off the bench and influence matches, and this could prove to be very important,” added Hughes.
Last season’s League Golden Boot winner Chris Venables is hopeful to recover from an ankle injury after missing last weekend’s friendly, and Hughes hopes to select from a full squad.
The Aberystwyth players and officials flew in to Derry from Liverpool yesterday (Tuesday) and have a scheduled training session planned for tonight at Brandywell Stadium before Thursday night’s big match.