SHEFFIELD UNITED: Monty desperate to end his lowest year on a high

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NICK Montgomery is convinced it will be a case of ‘third time lucky’ in a play-off final this weekend.

Now fighting fit and fully focused on his football following a tumultuous year behind the scenes, the Sheffield United midfielder will use previous heartbreaks as motivation when Danny Wilson’s side lock horns with Huddersfield Town in Saturday’s League One showpiece at Wembley.

Montgomery, who returned from injury for the second leg of United’s semi-final with Stevenage, has spent the past 16 years at Bramall Lane after graduating from its fabled youth system.

A member of the squads beaten in previous promotion deciders with Wolverhampton Wanderers and Burnley, he said: “This is my third time in the play-offs and hopefully it’s going to be the best one.

“We’re up against a good team and we’re taking nothing for granted, though.

“We’ve got 90 minutes now to finish on a high and if you’d told us at the start that we’d be in with this chance then we’d have taken it because this is a very tough league.”

“You never ever say never,” Montgomery added.

“That record has got to change sometime.

“I’m quite superstitious and I believe this time we will get the right result.”

Montgomery, United’s longest-serving player, tore a calf muscle after joining Millwall on loan earlier this term to “get some games” after dropping-out of Wilson’s first-choice 11.

But the pain of losing his starting role, combined with the disappointment of relegation last term, was nothing compared to the turmoil he experienced behind the scenes after twin daughters Chloe and Leah were born prematurely.

“They spent a lot of time in and out of hospital,” Montgomery explained. “We’ve had a lot of problems resulting from that, but the main thing is they’re good now.

“My wife might take them down to Wembley although she might need a hand because they’re quite a handful! The lads have been great this season but I’ve probably had my worst one.

“Obviously I had a lot going on at home and so I’ve been back and forth to hospital and with that I picked up a few niggly problems.”

Five years after helping United reach the Premier League, Montgomery found himself preparing for life in League One after four managers and a flurry of loan signings contributed to what the former Scotland under-21 international described as his “biggest low”.

“We found ourselves with not many players, a lot of loans and a lot of managers. Stability is something we’ve always had here and when we lost that it resulted in us going down,” Montgomery acknowledged.

“But this is a fantastic club that’s grown beyond recognition.

“I’ve been here since I was a kid and it’s part of me now.”

* DANNY Wilson, the Sheffield United manager, has hinted Kevin McDonald is making progress in his battle to be for this weekend’s meeting with Huddersfield Town.

United face their Yorkshire rivals in Saturday’s League One play-off final at Wembley with doubts surrounding the availability of a midfielder whose ability to manipulate a football has helped Bramall Lane shed its ‘route one’ reputation.

McDonald aggravated a hamstring complaint during the second leg of United’s semi-final victory over Stevenage but Wilson, who also believes striker Richard Cresswell will receive the green light to take part, said: “We aren’t exactly sure at this stage what the situation is with Kevin and Richard but hopefully both will be okay.”

Cresswell, who was forced to withdraw from the game against Gary Smith’s side due to an eye infection, is almost certain to recover.

McDonald, however, has been wrapped in cotton wool as medical staff at Shirecliffe continue to organise his treatment.

Meanwhile, tickets for the derby with Town are now on general sale either in person at the box office, via the internet or over the telephone.