Europa Conference League: Dundee United boss praises travelling fans and new signing

    Dundee United boss praises travelling fans and new signing
    Fletcher hails support as Ross urges players to rise to Alkmaar challenge (Picture: SNS/ Getty/ PA)

    Dundee United striker Steven Fletcher has praised the team’s fans after 2,000 were reported to be travelling to Holland for tonight’s clash with AZ Alkmaar. United lead 1-0 from the first leg but face a huge challenge if they are to progress to the Europa Conference play-off round.

    United punters have travelled in their numbers despite the game being shown on BBC and former Scotland striker Fletcher, 35, said: ‘It’s good for us that 2,000 fans are travelling. We’ll use that as a driving force.’

    United boss Jack Ross admitted his men will have to raise their game again if they are to overcome Alkmaar, who were fifth in the Eredivisie last term. Alkmaar were unbeaten in five home European ties last season and beat Celtic 2-1 in Holland in a Europa League play-off, although they lost the tie on aggregate. Ross said: ‘AZ’s home record in Europe is very good over the past six or seven years.

    ‘I’m excited about it though. I think the players rose to the challenge last week and they’ll need to do so again on Thursday. The performance needs to be at least on par with last week’s at home.’

    Aziz Behich has been given the green light to join the Dundee United squad for their Europa Conference qualifier against AZ Alkmaar tonight in the Netherlands.

    The 31-year-old had to wait on a work permit after joining the Tannadice club from Turkish side Giresunspor last month. The approval for the left-back has come in time for the second leg of the third qualifying round at the AFAS Stadion where United take a 1-0 lead from last week.

    ST ANDREWS, SCOTLAND - JULY 28: Dundee United Manager Jack Ross during Dundee United media access at the University of St. Andrew's Sports Centre, on July 28, 2022, in St. Andrews, Scotland. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)
    Ross believes Behich, capped 52 times for Australia, has all the attributes to be a success at Tannadice (Picture: Paul Devlin/SNS Group)

    United boss Jack Ross said: ‘We got confirmation of his work permit approval yesterday lunchtime which meant he can travel and be involved in the squad. It is a big boost for us. It has been hugely frustrating for him. He has been desperate to play for the last two or three games so it is nice to have him available. I’m looking forward to seeing him on the pitch at last.’

    Ross believes Behich, capped 52 times for Australia, has all the attributes to be a success at Tannadice. The former Hibernian and Sunderland boss said: ‘First of all, he brings competition in that area of the pitch.

    ‘Secondly, huge international pedigree, European league experience, he’s an all-round good player. Nothing much will faze him, there is a steeliness about his play and an energy and I think United fans will enjoy watching him, how committed he is to want to be a success. Part of the attraction of coming is he wanted a new challenge and from getting to know him the last few weeks, he is someone who is all in with that.

    ‘He is aggressive in all aspects of his play, how he defends, how he wants to get forward. He is quick and that energy and deliveries from the left-hand side of the pitch will be important, maybe in different roles at different times in different games.

    Dundee United's Ilmari Niskanen after the UEFA Europa Conference League third qualifying round, first leg match at Tannadice Park, Dundee. Picture date: Thursday August 4, 2022.
    Dundee United are facing a tricky European campaign but maintain a lot of optimism (Picture: PA)

    ‘He’s desperate to play. He’s had a taste by taking in the atmosphere at games in Scotland and the atmosphere in the European game has whetted the appetite even more.’

    AZ Alkmaar head coach Pascal Jansen is confident his side will go through to face Riga or Gil Vicente in the play-off round. He said: ‘We are very confident we are going to get the job done, but I know Dundee United will give us a big battle. We’ll have to give it everything.’

    AZ Alkmaar striker Vangelis Pavlidis said: ‘It was difficult in Scotland. Their crowd gave them energy but we are at home in front of our fans. We played
    better last season at home.’

    MORE : Champions League: Malik Tillman dedicates Rangers winner to the fans at Ibrox

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