UEFA EUROPE LEAGUE SECOND QUALIFYING ROUND
PRESTATYN TOWN 0-3 HNK RIJEKA (HNK Rijeka win 8-0 on aggregate)
It ended with a sense of pride rather than any lingering disappointment – any realistic feeling that Town’s European adventure would go further beyond this side of July had more or less already been dashed after last week’s trip to Croatia. But with heart and a feeling of celebration about how far they had come in four short weeks, Prestatyn bowed out gracefully of the Europa League in front of a 930-strong support at Belle Vue.
Many positives emerged even if the scoreline wasn’t too flattering in the Seasiders’ favour. For Jon-Hill Dunt, his dream of playing in Europe was realised as he took over from Dave Roberts in goal – a stoic 35 minutes or so followed for the keeper, until he was finally beaten by a curling shot from outside the box, courtesy of Ivan Mocinic. Dunt was beaten again within four minutes with a simple slot home from Ivan Boras and just to be acertain, Goran Mujanovic pounced with a third after the break to book the big spenders a third round clash with Slovakian club MSK Zilina, who overcame Slovenia’s Olimpija Ljubljana on away goals.
Beyond the scoreline, Town bowed out of the continent with no regrets. July 2013 will be remembered as a month when fresh from winning the Welsh Cup for the first time, Prestatyn Town – its fans, players, management and staff – realised new ambitions, made Welsh footballing history and won the acclaim of many old and new fans.
Player-manager Neil Gibson recently went on record and insisted that this European adventure was not a one-off affair. After defeat on Thursday, he told BBC Sport: ”We deserve to be at this level and if we can perform how we did last season and improve on it with some of the signings we’ve made, hopefully we can be a force in the Welsh Premier League this season and make these European evenings more of a regular occurance for Prestatyn Town.”
Assessing the performance over HNK at Rhyl, he added: ”We massively improved on what we did last week. We knew we were up against a very good side but we came up with plans and strategies to limit the effect they would have on the game. We’re disappointed with two of the goals we gave away in the first half but we thought we improved drastically on last week.”
So, the dream is ended – at least for now – but the club’s website said it best when it paid tribute to the fans who had supported, inspired and followed their team on their European journey: ”There is no doubt the fans were a credit to the club and must rank as the best and most passionate in the WPL and beyond.”