WITH Bala Town Football Club set to return to European football in 2020/21, after a season out, Denbighshire Free Press reporter Arron Evans takes a look at their previous encounters with opposition from across the continent.

The Lakesiders first qualified for the UEFA Europa League qualifying rounds in May 2013 after a late goal from John Irving, just two minutes from time, secured a 2-1 win over Port Talbot in the top flight’s play-off final.

That victory put to rest Bala’s disappointment of losing the play-off final to Llanelli in the season before and ensured they would be playing European football for the first time in their history.

And their European adventures couldn’t have got off to a much better start as they beat Estonian side Levadia Tallinn 1-0 at home in the First Qualifying Round of the UEFA Europa League, thanks to a third-minute strike from Ian Sheridan.

However, disappointment followed in the second leg as they fell to a 3-1 defeat and crashed out of the competition.

But if that was harsh, the year after would prove to be even harder to take. After losing 3-1 away to Luxembourg side Differdange 03, Colin Caton’s side had seemingly pulled off a miracle as goals from Connall Murtagh and Sheridan had see them go 2-0 up at home in the second leg, which would put them through on away goals. But, heartbreak ensued for The Lakesiders as Omar Er Rafik’s 95th minute goal gave the visitors a late, late win.

In 2016-17, the club endured 2-0 losses in both the home and away leg to Swedish side AIK as they crashed out 4-0 on aggregate.

2017-18 brought about a similar scenario as The Lakesiders were outclassed over both legs by Liechtenstein-based side FC Vaduz.

A Chris Venables goal in the first leg (1-2) had given Bala slight hope but the away leg saw them slump to a 3-0 defeat with Aldin Turkes (x2) and Marco Matthys securing a 5-1 aggregate scoreline before half time.

The disappointment continued for Bala in 2018-19, which was their most recent European campaign to date.

High hopes of an upset had once again arisen for the club as they were drawn against San Marino side Tre Fiori. However, any hopes of a victory became very slim after the first leg as Bala lost 3-0 away. Nathan Burke's goal at home in the second leg was the only positive from a miserable qualifying round.

So, that agonising night at home to Differdange 03 was the closest Bala Town have come so far to progressing to the next round, where a tie with Turkish giants Trabzonspor would have awaited them.

However, with the current format being changed to include just the one leg rather than two due to the coronavirus situation, can Colin Caton’s side cause an upset and overcome Valletta in Malta on August 27?