Stewart: Draw felt like a victory

Balestier Khalsa head coach Darren Stewart was delighted with a point after his side's 0-0 draw with SAFFC in the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League on Thursday.

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Despite missing seven first team players, Balestier still managed to eke out a creditable draw against a near full-strength SAFFC side in a game where chances were far and few between.

Both the Warriors and the Tigers did have opportunities to win the game; SAFFC came close through Fazrul Nawaz in the 51st minute when the forward's header from a Tatsuro Inui cross flashed across Zakariah Nerani's goal, while Balestier nearly snatched an unlikely victory in the latter stages of the game when substitute Andrew Tan found himself in an one-on-one situation with Shahril Jantan but wastefully lobbed the ball over the bar.

After the game, Stewart was understandably pleased with his depleted side's battling display as they recorded yet another clean sheet, and praised his players for managing to hold out for a draw.

"We'll be celebrating the result, it's absolutely superb for us, especially with seven players out," the Tigers coach said.

"We did ok until fatigue hit us, with the tired legs from the Albirex Nigata game taking its toll.

"We started to just use long balls midway through the second half which is fair enough; I couldn't ask any more of the boys.

"It was really tremendous, not just the ones who came in but all the older boys like Tengku [Mushadad], they were unbelievable."

Stewart may have had to do without the services of several senior players owing to suspension and injury but the former Australia international told ESPNSTAR.com that he was satisfied with the replacement players, including Primer League duo Helmi Mazlan and Suria Prakash.

"The players who were brought in did really well," Stewart said.

"Helmi did absolutely superb at right-back against Inui and he was substituted only because he was out of breath and just couldn't go on anymore.

"Suria was a bit unlucky he had to come out but we just weren't using him right. We were trying to play the ball to his feet instead of behind the defence and utilising his pace.

"All thanks to [assistant coach] Kevin Wee, he has done great work with the Prime League team, they just slotted in and really did a great job."

For now, the 46-year-old's immediate aim is to get his injury-hit side back together for the upcoming games.

"The next three matches, will just look at getting the team back, that's the main thing," Stewart added.

"Hopefully the boys will recover from their injuries and we'll get October off after the next game [against Harimau Muda], then we'll just go for the remaining games."

SAFFC coach Richard Bok saw his side dominate possession for the majority of the game but fail to convert their chances, leaving the 43-year-old demanding for his strikers to be more clinical in front of goal.

"We had more of the game but we need to convert the chances," Bok said.

"If you don't put away your chances there will always be chances for the opponents to sneak it, maybe in the last minute but luckily we held on to the end."

"There were a couple of good chances which we didn't take but, by and large I thought we had a decent game, moving the ball well and breaking down the flanks.

However, the highly-successful coach admitted he was nonetheless content with the result despite failing to win.

"Try as we might, the ball just didn't go in, but then again we still earned one point. It was quite a good game; the missing link was just a goal," Bok added.

"Of course I would be more satisfied with three points but at least we had one point instead of none."

With a RHB Singapore Cup semi-final against Gombak United on the horizon, Bok revealed that every player would have an equal chance of featuring in the tie and claimed he would be using their next game against Hougang United to let his players prove themselves.

"We've got Hougang first, one more game to see if there are any changes to be made, let those players have a chance to go for the game.

"All the players are eager to play in the semi-finals, but we just have to wait and see what happens.

"Now just have to work hard, train hard and hopefully perform in the two semi-finals."

Following Thursday's game, SAFFC are now seventh in the table on 28 points, while Balestier are two places above them on 35 points but more impressively for the Tigers, this result means they have not conceded a goal in their last four S-League games.



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