Declan Caddell confident Crusaders can rewrite European history with victory against FK Ekranas

Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter and his players in Lithuania
Crusaders manager Stephen Baxter and his players in Lithuania

Midfielder Declan Caddell is hoping Crusaders can rewrite their proud history books on Thursday afternoon.

The Crues have never progressed past the opening round of any UEFA competition dating back to the late 1960s.

The Shore Road men stand on the cusp of breaking that record when they renew rivalries with FK Ekranas in Lithuania on Thursday.

Stephen Baxter’s side boast a healthy 3-1 lead following last week’s first leg heroics at Seaview.

That was only Crusaders’ second success in Europe, and their first since defeating another Lithuanian outfit Vilnius 2-1 in the old UEFA Cup in 1996.

Caddell admits there is no room for complacency when they step out at the Stadium Aukštaitija.

“The lads know that we stand on the verge of something very special for the club,” the midfielder said.

“We are aware of the historical significance of the game and we have spoken about it as a group.

“This is a chance to write another chapter in the club’s history books, and we are determined to do that.

“Last week was only our second European win as a club and we have never progressed in a UEFA competition before.

“To do that against Ekranas this week would be a massive thing for the players and everyone connected with the club.”

Crusaders earned their win last week courtesy of goals from Stephen Cockroft, Jordan Owens and Colin Coates – who misses Thursday’s tie.

Ekranas kept the tie alive with a late goal from Aleksander Susnjar.

“Ekranas are a good footballing side, but we kept our shape in Belfast and it was a great performance against full-time opposition,” Caddell added.

“We were disappointed to concede a late goal, but at the same time we would have taken 3-1 before kick-off. We would have bitten your hand off.

“They maybe underestimated us in the first leg so overall we’re expecting a tougher test, but we’ll be going into the game with a very positive attitude.”