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Lecky: it's all a bonus now we've made bit of history

 

Happy days: Adam Lecky is thrilled to have been a part of the first Ballymena United team to progress in Europe
Happy days: Adam Lecky is thrilled to have been a part of the first Ballymena United team to progress in Europe

By Alex Mills

Beanpole striker Adam Lecky has admitted he is thrilled to have played a part in Ballymena United's most famous night on the European stage.

The Sky Blues made a little piece of history with their scoreless draw against Faroe Islands outfit NSI Runavik on Thursday, reaching the first qualifying round of the Europa League - the first time the club have progressed in a continental competition.

United laid the foundation for the success last week by claiming a crucial 2-0 win in front of their home fans - their first European tie at the Showgrounds for 15 years.

And they finished the job at the tidy Toftir Stadium, earning United a crack against Swedish side Malmo on Thursday night while boosting the club's Europa League prize money to £410,000.

"It's a nice little piece of history that we are the first Ballymena United team to progress in Europe," said Lecky, who didn't arrive home until 2am yesterday morning on the club's chartered flight.

"Not only is it the prestige of getting through to the next round, but the club will benefit enormously from a financial point of view. It's no secret how important European money is to Irish League clubs.

"Getting through a round, you pretty much double up your money. Hopefully it will help the club to go forward and allow the manager and the backroom team to put plans in place for the season."

Lecky admits it was a backs-to-the-wall operation as Runavik attempted to repair the damage they suffered at the Showgrounds.

"They were much improved from the opening tie at the Showgrounds," he said. "To be honest, we were under pressure for practically the 90 minutes.

"I think we caught them on the hop over here - especially as the game was played in sweltering heat, which they are not used to.

"And then there's the fact the game was played on a grass pitch. I don't think there are any grass pitches in the Faroe Islands - they are all synthetic surfaces.

"We knew it would be a totally different game, but I don't think we realised how much better they would be at home. We were under pressure for long periods.

"Ross Glendinning was fantastic in goal and the back three, which was a back five for most of the night, were absolutely brilliant. Runavik created a number of chances and hit the woodwork on a couple of occasions.

"It was a result we had to grind out, but we got there in the end. At the end of the day, we've kept two clean sheets in Europe, so regardless of the class of opposition we must be doing something right."

United will now do their homework on Malmo, but Lecky believes they will be on a different level.

"It's a quick turnaround," he added. "Malmo will be a step up in class, there is no question about that. They are a team laced with international players. It will be a massive step up.

"But at this stage, it's pretty much a bonus for us. We'll go there and try to do a professional job.

"We can go into the game with no fears because the odds will be stacked against us - we can go there and enjoy it.

"As I say, we are now in bonus territory.

"These games are ideal preparation for the start of the league campaign.

"We've been back in early (for pre-season), so our fitness levels should be good.

"We are much better off playing tough, competitive games against good European teams rather than going through the motions in pre-season friendly games, only picking up 45 minutes here and there.

"These games should stand us in good stead for the season ahead.

"Once we get these two games against Malmo over us, it will not be long until the season gets under way."

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