JAY OWEN insists Connah’s Quay Nomads are heading into tonight’s home clash against Kilmarnock with their eyes wide open.

Nomads boss Andy Morrison and his coaching staff are rigorous in their pre-match preparations regardless of the occasion, but the chance to tackle a Killie side that finished third in last season’s Scottish Premiership has sharpened the players’ minds.

“You sometimes go to play against teams and people have never heard of them, but when you’ve got a team like Kilmarnock, who play in the Scottish Premiership, everybody has heard of them,” said Owen of the first qualifying round tie in Rhyl (kick off 7pm).

“They’ve got some big players and a big manager has come into their club, so it’s well recognised and when you tell people who you’ve got in the Europa League they understand. It’s different to playing against someone from, I don’t know, say Belarus, who they haven’t heard of.For us it’s a massive game and one we will enjoy.”

Nomads have come up against Stabaek, Vojvodina, Helsinki and Shakhtyor Soligorsk in their first three Europa League campaigns.

Norwegian outfit Stabaek were beaten 1-0 on aggregate by Nomads, who also defeated Helsinki in the first-leg of their first qualifying round tie two years ago.

“When you play the unknown you are going in blind. We played Helsinki and we beat them in the first game and they came in blind,” added Owen.

“We know what Kilmarnock are going to be about because you see them on television every other week, so it’s a great test for us.”

While Nomads are embarking on a fourth successive European campaign, Owen is set to make it seven seasons in a row.

The hard working midfielder has followed up a hat-trick of adventures with Airbus by helping Nomads become accustomed to European football.

The excitement is still there for old hand Owen, who said: “It’s still what you aim for at the start of the season. You try and win the league and then after that you want to get back into Europe and play in those big games. To play in big games is what you do everything for.

“You try to win the league and cups and when you play in Europe it’s an honour.”

Nomads will face Kilmarnock at Rhyl’s Belle Vue this evening after briefly exploring the opportunity of using Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground.

Morrison’s men have played three of their four European games in Rhyl, and Owen is relishing a return, saying: “It will be brilliant. Belle Vue is a good close ground and the noise that both sets of fans are making will be great. We are looking forward to the tie and being at home first is a good thing for us, and hopefully we can keep a clean sheet.”

And Owen is looking forward to chasing some high-calibre opposition around Belle Vue, joking: “That’s all I do every week!It’s going to be a good test as individuals and as a team. It was good to see where were we were at and to see how sharp Aberdeen were.We know we can expect more of the same from Kilmarnock.”