Hougang United coach K Balagumaran (R) watches his players train at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas yesterday ahead of tonight’s S-League game against DPMM FC. Picture: BT/Yee Chun Leong
BY YEE CHUN LEONG
BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN - DPMM FC coach Steve Kean believes they will have to go unbeaten until the end of the Singapore League (S-League) season if they are to stand a chance at retaining their title.
The side are looking to snap a three-game run without a win, which includes two straight losses at home, when they host Hougang United at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas tonight. DPMM FC are currently fifth on 15 points after Home United beat Tampines Rovers 2-1 to move to third last night, with Hougang now slipping from third to fourth.
Albirex Niigata (S) FC lead the table with 26 points, enjoying a sizable 11 point lead over DPMM FC.
“We need to build up momentum, and I think we need to go unbeaten until the end of the season - starting this weekend at home,” said Kean after a training session yesterday at the Jerudong Mini Stadium.
“We can’t just be relaxed and think that there are 13 games to go. In all honesty, we need to win 11 of them if we want to retain or go close to the title.
“We can’t just think that we’ve still got the third round (to make up points). Because we are so far off the top, we need to win starting - with this weekend,” he added.
DPMM FC have been playing well performance-wise, but failure to capitalise on their chances and keep a clean sheet have come back to haunt them.
DPMM FC have only managed one point out of a possible nine after conceding in the final five minutes in the last three matches.
Kean has been keeping his players game ready as they focus on the positives heading into the encounter against the Cheetahs.
“I keep the players motivated by focusing on the performances. We haven’t been picking up the points we deserve looking at the amount of chances,” said Kean.
“Through difficult times you have to focus on the positives and work on the reasons we are dropping points - which is obviously no clean sheets and too many chances and not scoring.
“Sometimes you go through periods where you don’t get what you deserve. We know now that we are running out of games if we want to retain the championship.
“We put in another fantastic training week but there is no point training great during the week and not picking up maximum points.
“We are football players and not trainers. I think we will get the points as we are really determined to start again,” continued the former Blackburn Rovers manager.
The last meeting between both sides ended in a 0-0 stalemate at the Hougang Stadium in Singapore on March 4.
It was the only clean sheet for DPMM FC so far this season and also the only game where they failed to find the back of the net.
Kean knows what to expect and has set out a game plan for the encounter.
“Hougang are hard to break down and I think they were happy with a point (in the last meeting).
“We need to open up and be more explosive and expansive in the first part and get a head of steam to blast teams away certainly at home.
“We need to intimidate them with lots of possession and lots of shots. That is the game plan for tomorrow (Saturday),” he added.
Hougang coach K Balagumaran has certainly turned the club’s fortunes around after they finished at the bottom of the table last season.
He is in a positive mood heading into the match after coming from behind for a 1-1 draw against Tampines Rovers FC last Wednesday.
“We’re doing alright in the league and we know where we stand last year and this year,” said Balagumaran in an interview with The Brunei Times when met at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium.
“The players are highly spirited after coming back with a 1-1 draw against Tampines despite going a man down.
“Hopefully our team can bring up the same performance, but we know DPMM FC are not an easy team. On their day, they can beat anybody.
“We are not taking any chances. We still consider ourselves the underdogs against every team we play,” he added.
The Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium has been an impenetrable fortress for Hougang as they have never taken maximum points out of Brunei.
However, Balagumaran is not about records and believes that they can upend their opponents.
“We have never beat Balestier for five years and we have never beat Warriors on their home ground for five years - but we did so this year,” said Balagumaran.
“Things are changing and we are looking forward to a positive result,” he concluded.
The Cheetahs will be missing the services of reigning S-League Player of the Year Fumiya Kogure through a hand injury as well as centre-back Wahyudi Abd Wahid through a suspension after getting sent off in the first half against Tampines.
-- Courtesy of The Brunei Times