Stewart to continue experimenting in final

Balestier Khalsa coach Darren Stewart reveals he will use Friday's final in the plate competition of the Singapore League Cup to continue experimenting with his side.

Dragicevic tries to push the Tigers forward...

By Gabriel Tan

The Tigers eased to a 1-0 win over Woodlands Wellington in Monday's semi-final at the Toa Payoh Stadium, courtesy of an opportunistic strike by Zulkiffli Hassim in the 66th minute.

Nonetheless, after being thrown into the plate competition after defeats to Albirex Niigata and Geylang United in the group stage of the League Cup, Stewart admits his sole focus is to prepare his side for the restart of the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League campaign at the end of the month.

"We're happy we have another game to play," the Australian said following Monday's match. "But Friday's game means nothing to me.

"We're only worried about preparing for the last seven games of the league and I'm pleased with the boys for the way they prepared and played tonight [Monday].

"No one at this club really wants to win this plate, we tried things out tonight [Monday] that we're hoping we can use in the future, and we'll be trying more out again in the final."

Stewart opted to start with two strikers against the Rams with Zdravko Dragicevic playing in a withdrawn role behind Patrick Paranjody, before replacing the latter for Kim Min-ho at the break.

And while Kim made more of an impact than the man he replaced by getting into a number of good scoring positions, the Tigers tactician does not believe Paranjody is to blame for the lack of influence he had on the game.

"In the first half, we kept playing long balls and that was unlucky for Pat," Stewart said in defence of the 25-year-old.

"Kim had better service in the second half when we changed our style of play, so naturally he was in the game more."

Woodlands assistant coach Clement Teo revealed he was pleased with the commitment his players showed, although he conceded they probably could have done better to prevent Zulkiffli's winner.

"We're not upset with the performance," he said. "Overall, we're happy.

"The boys played according to plan and they tried hard. Unfortunately, some of their decision-making today [Monday] could have been better.

"It was a very unfortunate way to lose the game. Our keeper [Ang Bang Heng] probably could have done better, but it doesn't just boil down to that.

"Even in the build-up to the goal, we could have done better with our defending."

However, Teo insists he is seeing signs of improvement from some of his players, including right-back Danny Chew, who had a solid game despite coming up against the dangerous Zulkiffli.

"Some of our players have certainly been getting better," he added.

"Look at Danny Chew, he's someone who has never even played in the NFL [National Football League] before and yet they [Balestier] couldn't get past him tonight [Monday].

"What is more important however is that we improve as a team, and not just as individuals."

Following their League Cup exit, the Rams will now turn their attention back to the league, where they are in action again on August 26 when they entertain Gombak United at the Woodlands Stadium.

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