By Gabriel TanFollow @@gabetan13
The Cheetahs caretaker boss, who has temporarily been placed in charge of the side in place of Alex Weaver, was a relieved man after his side picked up only their second win of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League campaign at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Friday evening.
Goals inside the opening 21 minutes from Shotton and Nurhilmi Jasni gave them a comfortable lead, but their opponents kept alive their hopes of rescuing something from the game when Ridzuan Abdunloh pulled one back in the 33rd minute.
But with 15 minutes left to go, Nurhilmi met a pinpoint cross from Lau Meng Meng and headed home his second to wrap up the three points for the Cheetahs and Johana was pleased to see his team's hard work pay off, especially after their recent improvement.
"We have been working very hard in the last two matches but weren't able to deliver," he said. "Everything is coming together and there were already positives from the game against Warriors FC [a 4-2 defeat last Sunday].
"Everybody did what was expected of them and the goals we scored today [Friday] were all a product of what we have been working on in the past two days."
Johana had previously been critical of the lack of impact from the Hougang foreign brigade but had praise for Shotton and Beattie on Friday, after the former posed a constant threat up front while the latter delivered a majestic display in the middle of the park.
"Today [Friday] signals the rise of Liam Shotton and Thomas Beattie," he added.
"We've been waiting for our players to deliver and sometimes players arrive with hype but it takes time for them to deliver. Some come from different continents with different styles of football and it takes time to adjust.
"But based on today's [Friday's] performance, I'm sure we can look forward to more."
Johana believes Shotton could have ended the game with two goals to his name after a ferocious 25-yard strike was not awarded in the 56th minute, despite replays showing the ball had clearly crossed the line.
He also had praise for goalkeeper Fadhil Salim, who made a series of good saves, but insisted it was a wholehearted team effort that had gotten them over the line.
"That shot from Liam was a goal - have you seen a shot like that before in the S.League?" he said with a mixture of bewilderment and disappoinment. "It's sad that he was denied such a beautiful goal.
"I also cannot forget my goalkeeper, who was outstanding. If it had not been for him, I don't think we would be walking out of here with a 3-1 win.
"But we're not talking about individuals. It was a team performance."
Harimau Muda coach Razip Ismail, who has done well to lead his side to 11 points from their first nine games prior to Friday's defeat, believes a combination of a slow start and poor finishing ultimately cost them dearly.
"Maybe inexperience?" he replied, when asked why the Young Tigers had started the game sluggishly. "Maybe we weren't experienced enough to be playing a game being shown live [on television.
"I don't know and I'll have to ask them but I don't think we did well in the first 15 minutes. We were very nervous in front of our own box and defended poorly.
"We tried to make a comeback in the second half and we played better - it was a different game altogether. But still we made defensive mistakes and the third goal killed everything.
"The only problem in the second half was that we couldn't score. We tried everything, attacking down the left and right and through the centre."
Razip also believes playing on the artificial turf at Jalan Besar for the first time may have played a slight role in the defeat, but believes they also need to start being more clinical in the attacking third.
"Before we came here we trained on artificial turf," he revealed. "But it's still very different.
"But I think after that the players adapted to the surface very well. The only thing is that we had a nervous start and didn't play well in the first 15 minutes, that's why we let in two goals.
"In terms of playing, I think we are capable of matching any opponent but we must brush up on our forward play. Every game, we have had three or four chances to score.
"We need to sharpen our attacking and improve our defending. We learn in every game whether we win or lose."
Hougang are next in action on Monday when they entertain Home United, while Harimau Muda take on DPMM FC a day later at the Pasir Gudang Corporation Stadium.
Image courtesy of Felicia Toh