UEFA Europa Conference League: Larne exit after late goal

Larne’s hopes of repeating last season’s exploits in the UEFA Europa Conference League ended last night (Thursday) following a 1-0 aggregate loss to St Joseph’s from Gibraltar.

Tiernan Lynch’s charges earned a 0-0 draw in the away tie last week (Tuesday, July 5) and expectations were high that the team could use home advantage to get a win and propel them into the second qualifying round.

The east Antrim side conceded with just over 10 minutes left to play. Julian Valarino’s goal came shortly after Mark Randall received his second yellow card of the night, which saw the Inver Park outfit reduced to 10 players.

The visitors forced a save from Rohan Ferguson in the early stages of the match, before Lee Bonis and Leroy Millar both carved out chances as the first half progressed.

Larne fans enjoyed last season's European run. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press.

Bonis, who made the move to Larne from Portadown last season, had the ball in the net with around 10 minutes left to play in the first half, but the effort was disallowed for a foul.

In the second half, former Ballymena player Millar headed just wide from a Randall corner. This was followed by a Daniel Kearns overhead kick which was off target.

Following Valarino’s goal, the home side could not find an equaliser and Abraham Paz’s team held on for a memorable win.

The Inver Park outfit had qualified for European football for the second season in a row thanks to a 4-2 win over Glentoran in the NIFL Euro play-off final in May.

They progressed to the third qualifying round in last season’s competition after wins over Bala Town from Wales and AGF before losing out to Pacos Ferreira from Portugal.

Ahead of last night’s clash, Larne had hoped to attract a large crowd to the game.

A spokesperson for the club said: “Match tickets have continued to sell well this week, and we look forward to welcoming a large home support to Inver Park, who will no doubt get behind Tiernan Lynch’s side from the first minute.”

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Goalless draw for Larne in Gibraltar

St Jospeh’s will now face 2021 Europa League quarter-finalists SK Slavia Prague over two legs (July 21 and July 28) in the second qualifying round.