M'sian Super League: Time the boys step it up

M'sian Super League: Time the boys step it up
LionsXII’s Safuwan Baharudin (right) challenging Sarawak defender Mafry Balang in an aerial duel during the Malaysian Super League match held at Stadium Negeri on 15 March 2014.

The good thing about a tight fixture schedule is that we don't have time to feel sorry for ourselves.

We've lost back-to-back matches in the Malaysian Super League (MSL), against Kelantan at home and then Sarawak away, and it was a disaster in that last game because many players weren't up to the mark.

The last two games have been disappointing, but I don't feel the pressure because I have been in the hot seat so many times throughout my career.

I am disappointed because I know the boys are capable of playing much better.

But, as their coach, I've told them they cannot dwell on any one match because there are still 15 games for us in this year's MSL and we can get our season back on track, starting on Saturday against PKNS FC at our Jalan Besar home.

Three of the matches will be played over the next eight days and as much as I want our boys to win them all, we have to take each match as it comes.

Like any coach, I also hope we don't suffer any injuries.

As of now, striker (Khairul) Nizam and midfielder Aqhari (Abdullah) are injured, and while captain Isa (Halim) is available this week, he could go for surgery soon to fix his Achilles tendon so that he can come back fully fit as quickly as possible.

I've been really pleased with what I have seen from the boys during training this week because they clearly realise the need to step it up.

We spoke with the players and they agreed they need to commit more, not just through words but also on the pitch during training, and on game day.

The boys are starting to shout and communicate more, and their hunger and desire also look to have increased.

In fact, I had to send Raihan (Rahman) and Firdaus (Kasman) off for an early shower during one of the training sessions because the challenges were getting a bit feisty.

I don't want things to boil over, but I'm happy that the competitive edge is there and I want the boys to translate that onto the pitch on Saturday.

Every home game is now a must-win, but PKNS are not going to be pushovers.

Their foreign stars Patrick Wleh and Karlo Primorac are two of the most dangerous strikers in the MSL, and that is a factor in deciding whether to play Safuwan (Baharudin) up front or in defence.

I will decide this only at the last minute, but I will also have to think about how we can support (Khairul) Amri in attack and get the goals to win.

While I've told the players they shouldn't dwell too much on a bad game, it is my job to review past matches and find out what went wrong so we can work on correcting the mistakes.

The one positive is, while some of the players froze in front of the hostile crowd in Kuching, we still created enough good chances to bring home a draw - if only we could have finished them off.

Saturday night, in front of our supportive fans, I think the boys will respond with a big bang.

The fans have been fantastic this season and filling Jalan Besar even though the results have not been perfect.

The players know they are not just playing for themselves, but also to repay the fans' faith.

I cannot guarantee the result, but I can assure you we will be up for the match.


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