The Panevezys side were not considered among the favourites for the 2008 crown, three years on from their only post-independence championship, having finished 17 points behind Kaunus in third last season. But one month from the end of the A Lyga season, Ekranas are five points clear of Kaunas having played a game more. Key to Ekranas's success is coach Valdas Urbonas, who took over in January unable to resist the chance to return to the club where he began his playing career, two and a half years after the economics graduate left football to become a company director. Capped seven times as a midfielder early in the 1990s, he later went on to assist fellow former international Valdas Ivanauskas at FK Vėtra and Kaunas.
"Before the season our management aimed for a place in top three," Urbonas told uefa.com. "Nothing has changed since then and we do not feel any pressure despite being top." However, the 40-year-old is well aware that of their remaining seven games, three are against Kaunus. "Those battles will be decisive," he added. Urbonas was concerned that the close-season departure of midfielder Mantas Savėnas to Russia's FC Nosta Novotroitsk would weaken the squad, but the team has proved a solid unit. "After our long-time leader Mantas Savėnas left for Russia we doubted we would find somebody to replace him," Urbonas said. "But we did. It was the very experienced Deimantas Bička, who is a real boss both on the pitch and in the dressing room."
However, after a five-month unbeaten domestic run, Ekranas have started to stutter with defeats in their last two games. First they lost their Lithuanian Cup quarter-final against 1 Lyga leaders FK Tauras, and then Ekaranas went down 1-0 to Vėtra for their first home league reverse this season. So are the wheels starting to come off? "Definitely not," said Urbonas. "In the cup game we gave a chance to some youngsters and they didn't play well. Before the start of our next match we already knew that Kaunas had dropped points and tried to do more than we could and that was the reason for our failure. Overall, I think we are in good condition physically."
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