By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
After beating Courts Young Lions in their opening game of the 2013 Great Eastern-YEO's S.League season, the Cheetahs entered the clash at the Jalan Besar Stadium winless in three matches after draws against DPMM FC and Woodlands Wellington and a defeat to Albirex Niigata (S).
However, although they twice took the lead on Friday through Robert Eziakor and Hasree Zais, Hougang found themselves pegged back on both occasions by goals from Hafiz Nor and Ismael Benahmed, before the latter raced through to score in the 84th minute to hand Tanjong Pagar all three points.
The defeat was likely to have been difficult to take given Weaver's charges showed plenty of endeavour throughout the 90 minutes, but, in what is fast becoming a common theme in his post-match press conferences, the Englishman was keen to look at the positives from their display.
"I don't think we were unlucky," he said. "Perhaps we were for the first goal because the ball came across and the guy [Hafiz] has connected with it really well, but the shot was going over and wide.
"But it hit Syaqir [Sulaiman] in the face and went in - that was unlucky but you can't really control it.
"It came at a really bad time because I thought we could on to our lead at halftime - that would have been huge. We did really well in the first half and they [Tanjong Pagar] changed their system slightly to deal with that, and that's a big compliment to us.
"The players have done ever so well tonight [Friday] and they're bitterly disappointed, as I am, to have lost a game that we could have and should have won, because they've worked so hard in training as they always do."
One of the biggest positives from Friday was the performance of forward Jerome Baker, making his first appearance since playing just over an hour in the opening-day win over Young Lions, as he posed real problems to the opposition defence with his pace and strength.
Although he was only introduced to the Hougang starting XI because of a minor injury to Mamadou Diallo, Weaver admits the Canadian's display is likely to give him a selection headache in the weeks to come, given how well he linked up with Eziakor and Liam Shotton in a three-pronged attack.
"He [Baker] is a good player - one of those explosive types," he added. "Technically, he's very good as well and I would back him in a one-on-one situation against any defender in the league.
"We played him just behind the strikers tonight [Friday] and he found gaps, created the first goal and did very well overall.
"We like to have three strikers, whether or not they are classified as wide strikers or wingers. Tonight [Friday], we decided to bring those strikers in a bit more central and we had some success doing that.
"Diallo did not play because he picked up an injury from last week. He probably would have started in the role that Jerome did but Jerome's now given us a problem and he can certainly fill that role very well.
"We want to be adaptable and versatile and be able to change things slightly depending on certain things, like the opposition, the stage of the game and what's at stake. I think we did that tonight [Friday] and were relatively successful."
Weaver was also magnanimous in defeat as he praised the clinical nature of the opponents, who have not had any problems finding the back of the net so far this season.
"If you give quality players like Benahmed time and space in the box, they'll punish you," he lamented. "They only need half a chance.
"We lacked a little bit of concentration and they punished us for it."
Like his opposite number, Tanjong Pagar coach Patrick Vallee also had words of praise for their vanquished opponents and credited them for contributing to what turned out to be one of this season's most-entertaining encounters so far.
"I'm very happy because my team played a very good game," he said. "But I must thank Hougang because they also played a good game.
"I think you need both teams to contribute in order for a good game and that's what happened tonight [Friday]. Luckily for us, we won but Hougang played very well and games like this are good for the S.League."
Although there was plenty for the Frenchman to be happy about, he did rue his side's inability to keep a clean sheet for the fifth straight game, albeit with a smile on his face.
"I said to my players before the game that I wanted a clean sheet tonight [Friday]," Vallee revealed. "For me, I'm very happy when we keep a clean sheet because it means you are guaranteed at least one point.
"I'm very happy with what we did in the second half, not but not so happy with the first half. But in the second half, I'm very happy with the fighting spirit and winning mentality the players showed.
"Trailing 1-0 then 2-1, it's not easy and it takes time to come back, but that's what my team did."
With his side now guaranteed a place in the top three for at least another week, Vallee confirmed they have met the target he set for them at the five-game mark of the campaign, and is now looking to the future.
"I don't care about the last two games [a draw and defeat to Harimau Muda and Home United respectively]," the Frenchman added.
"I gave them one objective when we started the season - to get 10 points out of 15 from the first five games. If we could do that, it would be very good.
"Maybe everybody was upset after last week's defeat, but I told my players we are always looking at the objective. I knew if we won tonight it would be okay and that turned out to be the case.
"It's important to focus on your objective when you have one and ours meant we could afford one draw and one defeat [in the opening five games]. Of course, it's better if we can get more points.
"But now we have met our objective, we can work towards our next one."
Tanjong Pagar are not in action next week and will next play Albirex on April 2, while Hougang continue their bid to get back to winning ways on Wednesday when they visit Geylang International.
Image courtesy of Tanjong Pagar United FC