Belfast Telegraph

I'm happy in midfield - especially after taking on Ryan Mayse: Ballymena hero Leroy Millar

 

By Alex Mills

Ballymena United goal hero Leroy Millar admits he doesn't intend to suffer another dollop of disappointment when his team face Linfield in the final of the BetMcLean League Cup on February 16.

The 23-year-old grabbed the priceless winner in Tuesday night's tense semi-final showdown with Crusasders at Seaview to punch United's ticket to their third successive decider.

It also meant the high-flying Sky Blues extended their impressive unbeaten run to a staggering 16 games, while the records keep on tumbling as they have now won their last 11 fixtures.

David Jeffrey and his boys savoured League Cup glory back in 2017 when they roared to a 2-0 victory over Carrick Rangers at a packed Seaview.

But their hopes of making a successful defence were scuppered by Dungannon Swifts in last season's final at Windsor Park - the County Tyrone team, that included United's Ryan Mayse, racked up a 3-1 victory.

The versatile Millar is already relishing the prospect of appearing in another showcase final.

"Three League Cup finals on the bounce is a great achievement for the club," he said. "Last year was disappointing to lose out to Dungannon - they were the better team on the night.

"Hopefully we can go one better this year. I played at left back (in the final) against Carrick Rangers two years ago and in the same position against Dungannon last season.

"Maysie gave me a tough time in that final - I had nightmares about that. And he keeps reminding me about it!

"Winning was a better feeling than losing, I can vouch for that.

"But David (Jeffrey) and Bryan (McLoughlin) have been playing me in the centre of midfield. I'm enjoying it and feel so much more comfortable in the middle of the park. I'm just thrilled to be doing a job for the team."

Millar handed the plaudits for his goal - his sixth of the season - to his team mates.

He added: "It was a fantastically worked goal, involving Kofi (Balmer) and Jude (Winchester). He sent in a great diagonal ball to Cathair (Friel), who put it across the face (of goal) and I was there to finish it off.

"Cathair, for the height of him, wins a lot of ball in the air. Nine times out of 10, you maybe don't get a little break, thankfully I just took a gamble on it and it paid off. We were in control for long periods and, to be honest, we created quite a few chances in the first half but didn't take them.

"Credit to Crusaders, they came back into it and made it hard for us at times. Seaview is a very, very tough place to visit.

"It was a massive result for us, but I don't think anyone could say we didn't deserve the win.

"Our fans have been fantastic - we had great backing from them. When you are winning, the supporters are brilliant, but even when we are going through a sticky patch they remain behind us."

Although United are on the crest of a fantastic unbeaten run, Millar insists no one will be getting carried away.

"We'll just take each game as it comes," he added. "We have a difficult game against Institute on Saturday, they are a very good footballing side. We've already played them down there and, although we won the game, it was a difficult match.

"Our mindset is we've done nothing yet. People can talk about the unbeaten run and the record-breaking achievement, but our mantra is, nothing has been won yet. The manager has it drilled into us, no one will be getting above their station."

• NORTHERN Ireland will face a familiar opponent when they make their debut in the Futsal World Cup for the first time next month.

The draw for the preliminary stage has paired Northern Ireland with Wales, Finland and Moldova, who will host the Group H round from January 29 to February 3.

Having beaten the Welsh 2-0 in the Home Nations Championship just 10 days ago, to record their first victory in the tournament, Northern Ireland coach Jonny Michael and his players will be hopeful of getting some points on the board when they head to Chisinau.

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