Sligo Rovers vs. Motherwell

Sligo Rovers host Motherwell in the second leg of their Europa Conference League second round qualifying clash on Thursday.

The Irish side caused a major upset by winning 1-0 in Scotland last week.

Match preview

Indeed, the warning signs were on the wall for Motherwell after Will Fitzgerald blazed over from close range after a fine Sligo move straight from kickoff.

Josh Morris fired wide from a tight angle in response in a topsy-turvy opening exchange, with defender Lewis Banks only managing to divert his effort straight into the arms of The Well’s goalkeeper Liam Kelly.

Sligo made their pressure pay, however, after Aidan Keena intercepted Bevis Mugabi’s poorly-weighted headed back-pass before skillfully lobbing the onrushing Kelly from just outside the penalty area.

Things could have turned far worse for the hosts had substitute Max Mata displayed similar levels of composure in front of goal when presented with two excellent opportunities after the break, with the Irish side ultimately comfortably holding onto their lead nonetheless.

For a side which has not competed beyond the qualifying stages of European competition since the 1996 Intertoto Cup, Thursday night presents an incredible opportunity to move one step closer towards ending that barren run.

Graham Alexander, now in charge of Motherwell, pictured in September 2020

Former Scotland international Graham Alexander, who has presided over Motherwell since January 2021, would have been furious with his side’s performance in the first leg against Sligo, while respecting the opposition’s efforts on the day.

Losing at home to the third-best team in Ireland should not happen to a side which just finished fifth in the Scottish Premier League last season.

In last season’s Europa League qualifying campaign, for example, Glentoran and Coleraine were both dispatched before Motherwell fell at the final hurdle to Israeli side Hapoel Be’er Sheva.

The 50-year-old will be demanding a monumental effort from his players at The Showgrounds on Thursday night in order to avoid an embarrassing exit which could have wider ramifications in terms of his own job security and the club’s financial resources.

Team News

Celtic's Liel Abada in action with Motherwell's Nathan McGinley on February 6, 2022© Reuters

Sligo boss John Russell is unlikely to make any changes to the XI which performed admirably in gaining last week’s advantage at Fir Park.

All that the 37-year-old can ask for is greater composure from his forwards in front of goal, with them likely to be roared on by a boisterous home atmosphere.

Alexander, on the other hand, may be pondering changes in an attempt to freshen things up.

Joe Efford and Ross Tierney both appeared from the bench in the 1-0 defeat and could start after a slightly improved second-half performance.

David Devine and Barry Maguire may both be ruled out through injury.

Sligo Rovers possible starting lineup:
McNicholas; Banks, Blaney, Buckley, Kirk; O’Sullivan, Cawley, Morahan, McDonnell, Fitzgerald; Keena

Motherwell possible starting lineup:
Kelly; McGinn, Lamie, Mugabi, Carroll; Spitall, Tierney, Slattery, Morris; Efford, van Veen

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