Belfast Telegraph

Clinching Euro place would make season a success: Kane

 

Clear focus: Tony Kane is striving to help Ballymena finish in second spot
Clear focus: Tony Kane is striving to help Ballymena finish in second spot

By Alex Mills

Tony Kane believes it will be mission accomplished if Ballymena United manage to secure their place in European football.

Having gone toe-to-toe with Danske Bank Premiership champions-elect Linfield for most of the campaign, David Jeffrey's boys are now playing for second.

A gut-wrenching single-goal defeat to the Blues last time out all but settled what had developed into an intriguing title scrap. It was United's third defeat in four outings in front of their adoring home fans.

The Braidmen remain four points ahead of third-placed Crusaders, so can still hit the jackpot with European qualification.

"If we were to hold onto second place, it would be a fantastic achievement for the club," said Kane. "If we managed to secure European football, our mission will be accomplished.

"The gaffer always maintains we are on course to achieve what we set out to - book a place in Europe. Everyone knows European money is now crucial.

"I've sampled the other side of the coin. I'm approaching the end of my eighth season at the club. I was there when we were regularly a bottom six side.

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"But we've finished in the top six now on a consistent basis and are sitting second in the table. It's a massive improvement.

"We went toe-to-toe with them (Linfield) for a long time. Yes, we had a few disappointing results, but our aim from the outset was to book a European spot - we are still on course for that.

"You can point the finger at different games, the two home defeats by Glentoran and Warrenpoint Town. But we drew with Dungannon Swifts twice as well. We've had a few disappointments on the road as well.

"But this is all new to most of the boys. Perhaps our lack of experience showed."

Kane insists there will be no room for error when Ballymena make the journey to Solitude to face Paddy McLaughlin's fast-improving Cliftonville tomorrow.

"It's our final away game before three games at the Showgrounds against Coleraine, Glenavon and the Crues - quite a way to finish the season," he added. "Cliftonville will be a really tough game. I don't think the Reds have been beaten at Solitude since Paddy McLaughlin took over, so we know how tough it's going to be.

"Regardless of where Cliftonville are in the table, they are always formidable opponents. Games with the Reds have been tight this season, so this one promises to be similar.

"They are four tasty fixtures to end with. They are big games which I'm sure will attract big crowds.

"The European play-offs are also coming up at the end of the season. That's why it's so important to nail down second place."

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