"Make the most of the opportunity" - Millington's message to his Town players ahead of Wembley final

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Town boss Chris Millington has urged his players to seize their chance at glory in Sunday's FA Trophy final at Wembley.

The Shaymen face Gateshead in Sunday's showpiece final (4.15pm) for a chance to regain the trophy they won for the first time back in 2016.

"Make the most of the opportunity really because this is a one-off game and there's no second chance," said Millington when asked what his message to the Town squad would be.

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"As much as it's an amazing thing to win a cup final, especially on the biggest stage, it's soul destroying to lose cup finals, especially in that environment.

Chris MillingtonChris Millington
Chris Millington

"We've got to do everything we can to make sure that we come away victorious."

Millington says The Shaymen go into the final in good shape, with Jesse Debrah, Luke Summerfield, Jack Senior and Max Wright all having recovered from injury to be in contention.

"I think part of my job is always to be looking for areas where we can be better and stronger, so there are things that in a perfect world we'd be better off with," he said.

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"But I've absolutely no complaints about the health of the squad and the situation we go into the final in."

Captain Tom Clarke is expected to be fit to play on Sunday.

On defender Jordan Keane, Millington said: "A bit behind the others in terms of his recovery but we're hopeful we might just get him available for the squad on Sunday."

Back-up keeper Tom Scott missed the behind-closed-doors game on Monday.

"He rolled his ankle on Sunday, non-football related, and we'll see how he is," said Millington.

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Should Scott not be available, Millington says there will be no substitute keeper on the bench.

"The likelihood is we'll go with a strong outfield bench with as many options as possible."

Festus Arthur has now had his operation on his Achilles and will be at Wembley on Sunday for the game.

Halifax finished three places and two points above Gateshead in the National League this season.

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"Gateshead are a really, really good footballing side," Millington said.

"I remember watching them last season in the National League North away at Bradford Park Avenue and just thinking 'these are just a joy to watch', some of the football was fantastic.

"And they're even better this season. They've got Olley, Campbell, Bailey, Richardson and Aaron Martin up top who's effectively a Football League number nine.

"Maybe there's a bit of a doubt about how good they actually are, but we certainly don't.

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"We've done the numbers, we've looked at the statistics, we've analysed them in-depth, we know exactly how good they are.

"But we're a very good National League team ourselves now.

"We've got the most clean sheets in the league, we finished the season very strongly, we've got a real solidity about us out of possession but we've now also begun to carry a real threat going forward.

"They'll also know they're in for a game."It's a one-off cup tie but I know that if we're at our best, then I'd rather be in our dugout than theirs."

Millington says his players will need little motivating for the game.

"I see it in training," he said.

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"It's been a bit frightening in training actually because I thought we'd come back and maybe be a bit cautious and it might be a bit difficult to get them going but they've been absolutely firing.

"The tempo in training has been fantastic and if anything, we've had to put the reins on them a bit to make sure nobody picks up any unnecessary injuries.

"They look great and there's very little required from us in terms of motivation, everyone's absolutely firing."

When asked what he feels his side will need to do well on Sunday in order to win, Millington said: "We've got to deal with Gateshead's possession because they're clearly very good at building from the back.

"They can hurt teams with that.

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"We've got to exploit the transition, which clearly we can do because it's another big pitch so we'll be familiar with the dimensions, so we can exploit those opportunities on the transitions.

"And we know that when we drop teams low, we're very good at maintaining possession and creating opportunities.

"We've got experiences of playing big games this season, the Wrexham game at home was a huge occasion, Oldham home and away, both big occasions.

"I think the Solihull game away, there was a pressure on us because of the amount of injuries and illness we had at the time, York away, York at home, coming off the back of Woking, and the Wealdstone game at home, where there was pressure on us to perform and we won 5-0.

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"So we've got to look at those experiences and call upon them.

"If there's any doubt among the squad that they've got what it takes to perform under pressure, there's no shortage of examples this season of us doing it."

Millington added: "The the thing we have to focus on is what we do, and that's making sure we're absolutely clear on the individual roles and responsibilities within the team, knowing exactly what the process is that's expected and any times there are any signs that individuals or units are veering from those process and those roles and responsibilities, then either us as a management team or the senior players on the pitch draw them back in and refocus them back on what their job is and how the execute is."

Millington said his job between now and the final is to provide as much clarity for his players as possible.

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"I think the benefit of having this time," he said, "it's given us the opportunity to layer the detail and now we're into the final detail to make sure we're explicit with those messages so there's absolute clarity going into the game."

Millington says he has sought advice from people who have played and coached in similar big games to Sunday.

"Just to pick their brains around things to be wary of so we don't allow them to trip us up," he said, "so we know how we can cover off every base so the players can experience everything they need to prior to it, so they're fully focused on winning the game when we arrive on Sunday.

"That's what we've got to do, is make sure we're fully focused on winning that match because it's easy to think we've cracked it and we've won something because of the atmosphere around the game.

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"But the reality is we've not achieved anything yet, we've got to go and win a football match."

Millington said Town's build-up to the game has been finalised, including going to Wembley the day before.

"The day before's all planned out, we know what we're doing and at what times of day," he said.

Town will train en route to their Hertfordshire hotel on Saturday and will arrive at Wembley at around 2.15pm on Sunday.

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Town held a media day at their training ground on Wednesday before a day off on Thursday.

"Friday is the final day of a 'proper' session, so the full opportunity to work through things we need to make sure we're sharp at," Millington said.

"Friday we'll train but it'll be lower tempo, walk through's and low tempo exercises, and make sure all the details are nailed down and the players are well-versed in what their roles and responsibilities are.

"Then once we're on the road and down to Wembley on the Saturday, it's a busy schedule making sure we fulfil all our commitments."

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Millington says the players have had some input into the itinerary.

"They've raised some points they wanted putting across and they've been taken no board but they're just minor tweaks," he said.

"The preparation we do is pretty thorough anyway so we'll maintain that, we've just tweaked one or two things in the pre-match meetings to make sure players are absolutely clear on what their instructions are and what's required of them.

"But to all intents and purposes, on the day of the game it'll be very similar to an overnight away trip.

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"The fans' day on Saturday was really useful because I think that did a lot of the work for us in establishing for the lads what an important occasion it is and what an important opportunity it is.

"Now we've got to focus them on how they make the most of that opportunity and win the game."

On whether Town would be practicing penalties before Sunday's game, which will go to extra-time if it's a draw after 90 minutes, the Town boss said: "We're not going to hammer it home but there will be a couple of opportunities for the lads to take penalties under as much pressure as we can possibly apply in a training situation."

Millington says there is a plan in place to try and counteract any big-day nerves among his squad.

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"It's about the preparation and making sure that we get down there, we experience the environment the day before and then on the day, players are absolutely aware of what their jobs are and what their responsibilities are within the game," he said.

"Whenever nerves or excitement or distractions come, the best way to refocus is to understand what's behind the process, so as long as the players are absolutely clear on what the process is, we can draw them back into focusing their attention on that."

Millington says he doesn't know his team yet.

"I've not sat down with a piece of paper and planned it out, so I don't know," he said.

"It's obvious to anyone who cares to look that certain positions are harder to pick than others because of the personnel we have available.

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"The style Gateshead play and the way they'll approach the game will dictate some of that, and also the fact it's a cup game and we have to be mindful it might go on longer than 90 minutes and that it might go on to penalties, so we'll take that into consideration as well.

"My responsibility is to the team as a whole and making sure I get it right for the team.

"That can be as much about getting the starting 11 right as it can be planning around what substitutions are made and when right, because they can be the players who go on and win the game or affect a penalty shoot-out.

"So the responsibility is to get all those decisions are right as we possibly can for everybody concerned.

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"The responsibility is great but not just from the point of view of disappointing people but also that we go into it in the best possible shape to go and win the game, and that might be how we choose to use our substitutions and which players they are to go on and impact the game."

Around 7,000 Halifax fans have bought tickets so far, and Millington has no doubts The Shaymen supporters will back his team to the hilt.

"I don't need to ask anything of the fans going into the game because I know they'll be absolutely bang up for it and they will do everything they can to help get us over the line," he said.

"I just want to reassure them that the game matters as much and the result matters as much, if not more, to us than it does to them and we'll be doing everything we can to bring it home."