Match preview: Saints v FK Trakai

Wednesday 28th June

Tomorrow night sees the return of European football to McDiarmid Park - our first game in the Europa League qualifying rounds since hosting Armenians Alashkert on 9th July 2015.

The visitors to Perth on this occasion are Lithuanian high flyers FK Trakai, who currently sit second place in the A Lyga with 28 points from their opening 16 matches.

This will be the third season the Riteriai (The Knights) have played in European competition following their formation in 2005, with all of those appearances coming within the last three campaigns.

In 2015/16, Trakai overcame HB Torshavn (Faroe Islands) 7-1 on aggregate before going out in the next round to Cypriots Apollon Limassol (0-4 agg). Last season they failed to get over the first hurdle after a 5-3 aggregate defeat to Estonians Nomme Kalju FC.

A key man for FK Trakia is top scorer Maksim Maksimov. The 21 year old Russian signed at the beginning of the season from league rivals Atlantas and has bagged 7 goals in 12 matches so far.

Another player to look out for is 18-year-old Liberian midfielder Oscar Dorley, who has got on the scoresheet five times this campaign.

Both Maksimov and Dorley were taken off at half time after scoring in the club's last outing, an 8-0 cup win over lower league Garliava last Sunday, to rest them ahead of tomorrow's fixture in Scotland.

With the exception of captain Steven Anderson, who picked up an injury in a behind-closed-doors friendly with Rangers last week, Tommy Wright will have a strong squad to choose from for the visit of the Lithuanians.

With 'Ando' missing, the Saints boss may decide to hand a European debut to one of three talented youngsters at McDiarmid Park. Ally Gilchrist (22), Liam Gordon (21) and Jason Kerr (20) are all in with a chance of being asked to step in for this crucial match. Gordon has started for Saints on two previous occasions while both Gilchrist and Kerr have alot of competitive experience under their belts while out on loan in recent seasons - Gilchrist played in the 2016 Challenge Cup Final at Hampden Park for Peterhead, while Kerr lifted the 2015/16 League Two championship with East Fife.

Elsewhere on the pitch, summer signing Stefan Scougall (pictured above) is likely to make his St. Johnstone and European debut, while fellow newcomer Kyle McClean, a Northern Ireland U21 international, could also be involved.

Update: 22-year-old left-back Scott Tanser completed his move to St. Johnstone on Wednesday afternoon and should be included in the squad to play FK Trakai if international clearance is received in time.

Speaking ahead of the match, Tommy Wright told the press he is hoping St. Johnstone's previous experience in European competition (qualifying five times in the last six seasons) will be of benefit to the Perth men:

“We have to get a positive result on Thursday night because we know how difficult it is when you go away from home in Europe and have to chase it,” he said.

“That’s what happened against Spartak Trnava a few years back, we didn’t start the game well at home and were 2-0 down before we started playing.

“In the end we scored to bring it back to 2-1 and should have been 2-2, but going over there it was difficult because we had to come out and although we scored they picked us off.

“So we have to learn from that and use the experience we’ve built up from that night.

“A lot of the lads who are still here were involved in that, so they know what you need to do in these games when you’re at home first.

“It’s easy to get caught in between not wanting to lose a goal and being on the back foot.

“These games are a bit cat and mouse when you’re at home first and you have to deal with the nervousness that comes with the away goals.

“But I think that this team are in a better place to cope with it having been through it before and I think as a manager I’m better placed to deal with it too.”

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RC