Few people can realistically see Prestatyn Town’s Europa League adventure lasting beyond tonight. Despite the heroics over FK Metalurgs, the Seasiders were crushed 5-0 by HNK Rijeka as they faced a 10,000 strong crowd in Croatia last Thursday. That more or less ended any hopes of the Welsh Cup holders pushing towards the third qualifying round of the Europa League – but they’ll insist that the past four weeks have given them something of a headstart before the start of the Welsh Premier campaign next month.
Prestatyn coach Chris Hughes was certainly optimistic, telling BBC Sport: “It’s been really beneficial to all of the players…If we can take one or two things from the way they played in terms of technique and how they pass the ball and take that into the Welsh Premier League season, then we’ll have a good season.”
Tonight, Town return to where their European adventure began – at Rhyl’s Belle Vue – where 1400 people turned out for that 2-1 first leg defeat against Metalurgs which preceded that unforgettable night in Liepāja that will live long in the memory of Prestatyn’s faithful. It would take an even bigger shock than that to secure a meeting with either Olimpija Ljubjana (Slovenia) or MSK Zilina (Slovakia) – and that again would be after meeting a Priva HNL league side aiming on the big time by spending big on international talent.
What matters for the Seasiders is that another big turnout tonight can help end their international sojourn on a high. As club chairman Phil Merrick writes on Town’s website: ”Thursday night will be a big celebration to thank our lads for their outstanding achievement and a chance to see one of the best teams in Croatian football. Our players should be very proud of themselves. They are naturally disappointed with the result from the first leg but they certainly did not disgrace themselves – in fact quite the opposite. The atmosphere in the stadium was amazing – let’s do the same for our boys and make it a night to remember. This will be a very special occasion in the history of Prestatyn Town Football Club – especially when we score six!”
Kick off at Belle Vue this evening is at 7pm with tickets on sale at the gate.