By Suhas BhatFollow @@suhasrbhat
Reporting from the Hougang Stadium
Johana Johari started with the same line-up that brought him his first win as interim coach against Harimau Muda last Friday and it paid dividends as they helped lift Hougang from the bottom two with the win.
Aside from that half-volley, though, it was one-way traffic for much of the game with the Protectors repeatedly threatening Fadhil Salim's goal although they did struggle to carve out clearcut chances.
Indra Sahdan Daud was looking particularly dangerous for the away side as his intelligent running caused several problems for the Hougang defence.
As early as the 13th minute, Fadhil had to make a block to deny the midfielder after a cross from the right was inadequately headed back towards goal, and the forwardeven pounced on the rebound but was hampered a second time by Hasree Zais' goal-line clearance.
Three minutes later, Firdaus Idros showed some delicate footwork to turn past several defenders in a run straight down the middle but Fadhil came out to collect just as he entered the box.
It took until the 23rd minute for Liam Shotton to register the first notable chance for the home side as the tall forward somehow maintained possession, shrugging off the attentions of the Home left-back to fire a ferocious drive from the right that whizzed past the left post.
Shortly after the half-hour mark, Hougang again threatened to score the opener when Mamadou Diallo was felled just outside the box and the Guinean's subsequent delivery curled just past the right post.
Within a minute, it appeared that Hougang had actually broken the deadlock when a free-kick from distance was met with an awkward defensive header and Beattie was on hand to tap the ball into the net after Shahril Jantan failed to save the early attempt.
However, the linesman ruled that the Englishman was offside and it served as a wake-up call for Lee Lim-Saeng's side.
Juma'at Janta's injury forced a reshuffling of the pack but Masrezwan Masturi, who took over at left-back, charged up the field to connect with a cross but could only watch as the shot blazed over the bar.
The half ended goalless, though, as despite having a majority of the possession and consistently collecting the ball in the final third, the Home attackers could not release the trigger in time.
They were made to pay for such profligacy as Beattie scored with Hougang's first attack seven minutes after the restart as a defensive clearance reached the 26-year-old who promptly chested down the ball and hit a terrific shot on the bounce that swerved into the top right corner of the net.
Home were shocked by the turn of events and attempted to up their tempo and opted to bring on striker Masato Fukui on the hour-mark in order to pull one back before the final whistle.
Hougang, buoyed by a joyous home crowd, were keen to show they were no pushovers, though, and the likes of Azhar Sairudin, Diallo and even Shotton put in an extra shift in defence to make life difficult for the visitors.
Hasree even collected a yellow card for bringing down an opponent down the left wing with a harsh challenge in the 67th minute while Diallo continued to plow the right flank and even saw two attempts fail to double his side's advantage.
It took Fukui several minutes to acclimatise to the charged atmosphere and the Japanese collected the ball inside the box in the 74th minute but, despite having time on his side, he could only direct his low shot wide of the post.
Shortly afterwards, Fadhil's long punt upfield was won by Shotton and the lanky forward fought off his markers and laid the ball back for Beattie to attempt yet another piledriver. Home custodian Shahril did not have much to worry about this time as the effort was deflected out for a corner.
Johana chose to bring on defensive reinforcements in Basit Hamid, Jeremy Chiang and Fairoz Hasan in the closing stages of the game in order to help see out the win. His cause was also helped by Diallo's tireless running as the winger managed to outsprint his marker during a skirmish occuring as late as the 81st minute, much to the delight of the watching supporters.
They did need Fadhil to be at his superlative best two minutes later, though, as the 30-year-old made a superb save off an Indra free-kick, following it up with another close-range block to deny Jordan Webb.
It proved to be a dismal night for the Canadian as well as Nor Azli Yusoff and Indra, as the trio failed to produce the goods on their return to the stadium of their former employers.
The loss further reduces their chances of breaking into the top three with DPMM FC lurking just two points behind them in the standings albeit they also possess two games in hand.
On the other hand, with two wins in as many games, Johana has also brought about a mini-revival since his March appointment and he willl be hoping to secure a hat-trick of wins with a positive result against Young Lions at the Hougang Stadium next Tuesday.
Hougang United: Fadhil Salim, Faizal Amir, Hasree Zais, Syaqir Sulaiman, Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni (Jeremy Chiang 77'), Thomas Beattie, Azhar Sairudin, Fazli Jaffar (Basit Hamid 72'), Mamadou Diallo (Fairoz Hasan 87'), Liam Shotton.
Home United: Shahril Jantan, Juma'at Jantan (Azli Yusoff 35'), Noh Rahman, Hafiz Rahim, Jordan Webb, Firdaus Idros (Masato Fukui 60'), Lee Kwan Woo (Aliff Shafaein 82'), Masrezwan Masturi, Sirina Camara, Indra Sahdan Daud, Song Ui Young.
Image courtesy of Home United FC (Jaron Lee)