Belfast Telegraph

Ballymena confident of ending on real high with Euro spot: Kane

 

By Alex Mills

Versatile Tony Kane believes Ballymena United have peaked just at the right time.

The Sky Blues are enjoying their most successful season in years - and they are not finished yet.

With the League Cup already sitting proudly in the Ballymena Boardroom, coupled with their best league placing for 19 years, the icing on the cake for David Jeffrey's side would be claiming a Europa League slot.

They currently sit in fourth place, level on points with Cliftonville, who have a better goal difference, but that could all change come the weekend.

Ballymena make the journey to neighbours and rivals Coleraine, while the Reds entertain Linfield in what could be a party day for David Healy's side. They only require one point to nudge over the finish line and lift the Gibson Cup for the first time in five years.

However, Ballymena's sights will be set on clawing above managerless Cliftonville, who have brought back former boss Tommy Breslin to steady the ship and guide them through their remaining matches.

"It's a fantastic end of the season for us," said Kane, who has pocketed a staggering 18 goals from midfield.

"We are more used to playing in the bottom six, turning out at empty grounds in what are meaningless matches.

"What makes it even more exciting is the fact that it is the first time the club has finished in the top six since the Premiership was formed.

"Yes, we were disappointed with our opening match in the 'split' when beaten by Glenavon, but the lads showed a lot of character in the following game against Linfield, who probably deserved the 2-0 win on the day.

"But the boss set us a challenge in terms of our league placing - and the lads responded by clocking up a great 4-1 win against Cliftonville."

United then produced the performance of the season to rack up a thumping 3-0 win over Crusaders at the Showgrounds at the weekend, to almost certainly explode the Shore Road boys' chances of claiming a record-breaking hat-trick of title successes.

"Crusaders are the current champions, they have won the title for the past two years, so the boss wanted to know how far we have come as a team," added Kane, who returned to action at the weekend after serving a two game ban.

"His question was answered as it was one of our best performances. I suppose the goal scorers always grab the headlines, and rightly so, but our goalkeeper Ross Glendinning pulled off a couple of cracking saves when the game was still scoreless.

"That gave us the foundation for the victory. But we still have some unfinished business to attend to at Coleraine. It will be tough, but we are determined to finish on a high before we go into the Euro qualifiers."

Should United manage to claim third place, it would be their highest league finish since the 1980/81 season.

"It would mean we have home advantage for the Europa League play-offs," added Kane.

"Our pitch may not be in the best state - the boss has already complained about it. But it has worked for us in recent home games. I don't think other teams fancy coming to Ballymena.

"However, we are taking nothing for granted."

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