Great eastern-Yeo's S.LeaGue 2014
Balestier Khalsa v Home United (Tonight, 7.30pm, Jalan Besar Stadium)
That's how long it has been since Home United - one of the biggest clubs in the Great Eastern-YEO'S S.League - last won the title.
They have come excruciatingly close in recent times, finishing a solitary point behind champions Tampines Rovers in 2011, and also settled for second place behind their rivals last season.
On paper, the Protectors are once again contenders this season, with a squad boasting seasoned internationals like Noh Rahman, Juma'at Jantan, Fazrul Nawaz and Indra Sahdan, while marquee signing Lee Kwan Woo of South Korea continues to pull the strings for the team.
The Bishan-based giants failed to take advantage after leaders Brunei DPMM went on a four-game winless streak, going down 3-1 to Hougang United last Friday.
They are four points behind DPMM with a game in hand, and will be desperate for three points tonight when they take on Balestier Khalsa at Jalan Besar Stadium.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, coach Lee Lim Saeng said: "Of course, missing the opportunity to go top is disappointing."
"But there is still much of the season to go."
"I am confident we will be able to pick up the points and remain strong contenders."
"The league is vastly different now from when I first arrived."
"Games can be decided singlehandedly by clinical strikers or aggressive and committed defenders."
"I believe Home United have such players."
Lee can take heart that his side also overcame a slow start last year to finish second - five points behind the Stags - in a season where the Protectors also lifted the RHB Singapore Cup.
"We must keep our focus," ex-South Korea international Lee added.
"The players, coaches and management all have a winning mentality.
"The solution now is consistency. Once we play with consistency, like we did in the second half of last year, we stand a good chance of winning the title."
The Protectors will be well aware Balestier are unbeaten in their last three matches.
The Tigers posted an impressive 3-0 win over Tanjong Pagar United and followed it up with draws against Albirex Niigata and Warriors FC.
Tigers boss Marko Kraljevic insisted his team are not fazed at the prospect of a Home side itching to make up for last week's loss.
"It's going to be a tough game," the Croat admitted.
"Tough for us, but also tough for them."
"We know they were beaten in their last game but I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. We don't want to worry too much about form or whether they won or lost in their last match."
"We'll just focus on ourselves and I believe if we play to our best, we can win. In fact, I think we can beat anyone in the league."
Balestier are looking to break into the top half of the 12-team S.League. But with a near full-strength side at his disposal, Kraljevic believes there is plenty for the Tigers to be optimistic about."
"I'm happy with our recent performances," the 48-year-old said.
"As I've said before, what I'm most happy is to have my full squad available, apart from Paul (Cunningham, captain) who is out for some time.
"Park (Kang Jin, playmaker) is back, everybody else is fit and playing with confidence. Things are looking very promising."
The writer is a freelancer
This article was first published on June 20, 2014.
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