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Football: LEEPER FACES UP TO EURO NIGHTMARE; CHAMPIONS LEAGUE: GLENTORAN FEAR AN EARLY EXIT Glens skipper: No excuses.. I'm to blame for Shels goals.

Byline: Darren FULLERTON

GLENTORAN skipper Paul Leeman has described his performance against Shelbourne in Wednesday night's Champions League defeat as a "nightmare."

The normally accomplished Glens' skipper had a hand in both Shels goals, and Leeman is honest enough to acknowledge his damaging role in the 2-1 defeat.

"I'm gutted," said Leeman. "I am professional enough to know that I let my team-mates down and I told them so after the game. There are no excuses."

Glentoran must score at least two goals in Wednesday's return leg in Dublin to stand any chance of securing a second qualifying round date with Romanian giants Steaua Bucharest.

Pat Fenlon's Shels side are favourites to go through thanks to Jason Byrne's two away goals at the east Belfast venue, both of which came courtesy of the unfortunate Leeman.

The 27-year-old Glens' stalwart was robbed by Glen Crowe for Byrne's first in the 49th minute and he also upended Crowe in the 63rd to hand Byrne his second from the penalty spot.

"I should have known better for their first goal," said Leeman. "I tried to beat Crowe and he dispossessed me. You don't take chances as a defender and I was caught out.

"Once he was away there was no catching him and unfortunately it led to their first goal which really knocked the stuffing out of us.

"Crowe also got a yard on me for the penalty, and I can have no arguments. I tried to tackle him to stop him shooting on goal but, to be honest, I didn't get much of the ball.

"The referee probably made the right decision, although I thought it was just on the edge of the area."

Leeman acknowledged his misdemeanours in the Glens changing room immediately after the game.

"In that situation, nobody wants to apportion blame, but I was the first to hold my hand up," he said.

"I said 'sorry' because it seemed the right thing to do. I was disappointed in myself because the lads had worked so hard and both Shel's goals could have been prevented."

Leeman and Glentoran must now prepare themselves - physically and mentally - for round two of an all-Ireland battle that has gripped public attention on both sides of the border.

A large travelling support is expected to make the trip to Tolka Park and Leeman insists the Glens can make amends.

"It will be very difficult down there but anything is possible in football and we will go there in a determined mood," he said.

"Losing 2-0 at home would have made it near impossible for us to progress, but Sean Ward's goal has given us a lifeline and we know that we are capable of putting in an improved performance.

"We went to FC Allianssi last season and scored twice when nobody gave us a chance. We certainly aren't going to Dublin to make up the numbers."DEADLY:

Jason Byrne


BAD DAY AT THE OFFICE: Leeman aims to bounce back in second leg against Shels
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jul 15, 2005
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