VILNIUS. — Zimbabwe international Alec Mudimu and his Cefn Druids teammates face a tough challenge here today as they try to save their UEFA Europa League campaign against FK Trakai of Lithuania. Mudimu’s team conceded a late goal as the Lithuania side stole a point in the first leg last week and the hosts are now favourites to sail through.
The utility player, who plays as a defender for the Warriors and a midfielder for his team, made the starting XI for the Welsh side in the first leg that ended in a stalemate.
The Zimbabwean star is featuring in his first adventure in the Europa League.
His manager, Huw Griffiths, says his side have gained plenty of respect as they prepare to tackle their opponents today.
The Ancients flew out from Luton Airport on Tuesday evening still in with a shout in the preliminary round tie after their creditable 1-1 draw with their opponents at TNS’s Park Hall.
Although the Lithuanians are favourites to progress, Griffiths insist his players have given the hosts plenty to think about ahead of the return leg at the Alytus Stadium.
“I think we gained their respect from the first leg and earned plenty of credit,” he said.
“We have done the league and Welsh football proud and I’m confident we will put in the same performance again, because this group of players won’t allow anything less.
“It’s going to be tough out there. It will be different as they would have done their homework and I think they have a couple of players to come in.
“But we are going out there looking to be positive, like we were in the first leg. I think we surprised them with our performance.
“We know we have to score, so we will look to have a good go at them again and give them problems.”
The Ancients have an injury concern over defender Nathan Peate who turned his ankle in the first leg, but Mudimu and Ryan Kershaw should both be fully fit after going off with cramps.
Griffiths was disappointed his side were not making the trip with a goal advantage after conceding an equaliser four minutes from time.
“With the calibre of their players, we would have taken a draw before the game, but in the end we were disappointed not to have won. It felt like a defeat at the end.
“Our players were exceptional. They worked so hard, dug deep and for 70 minutes we more than matched them.
“We played two up front and wanted to take the game to them and score which we did, so it was disappointing the we did not go on to win the game in the end.”
The Welsh club believe their coach could be the key factor today.
“If one man can mastermind a magical European night for Cefn Druids it’s boss Huw Griffiths,” the club said on their Twitter account.
“The Ancients’ boss is famed for his hard work, attention to detail and acute tactical knowledge, which often sees numerous formations used within a single game.”
And defender Neil Ashton, who also made his Europa League debut last week, has nothing, but praise for Griffiths.
“He’s one of the best I’ve worked with, I would like to have worked with him on a full time day-to-day basis.
“He studies the opposition in great detail and the hours he puts in show how much he cares about what he’s doing.”
On life under Griffiths, the former Wrexham full-back, continued: “Huw is a man of few words. He doesn’t bang on for the sake of it or waffle for no reason, so when he speaks you listen as he talks a lot of sense.
“He’s been great with me. I’m the oldest player in the squad at 33 and he understands I can’t do everything the lads that are 18 or 19 can, so from that point he’s fantastic. He treats you like his own son. He’s respectful and always asks how you are and how your family are.
“He’s a genuinely nice block and he has a lot of respect in football.”
James Davies created history for Druids as he scored the club’s first-ever European goal in last week’s first leg of the preliminary round, before Trakai hit back. — Daily Post/Cefn Druids.