Tay remains upbeat in Stags' title chances

Tampines Rovers coach Tay Peng Kee believes his side are still well placed to win the Great Eastern-YEO's S.League despite Saturday's 1-1 draw at Gombak United.

Football News: Aleksandar Duric, Tampines Rovers

By Gabriel Tan

The Stags appeared to be heading for victory after Serbian striker Sead Hadzibulic nodded them ahead in the 21st minute, but the hosts hit back 13 minutes from time to steal a share of the spoils after Hafiz Rahim prodded home a cross from Nurullah Hussein.

The result meant Tampines were only able to extend their lead over second-placed Albirex Niigata, who fell to a 3-2 loss to Hougang United on Thursday, to nine points, although Tay believes his side remain firmly in control of the title race.

"This result isn't a problem," he said after the game. "We still have a comfortable lead at the top of the table.

"We always want to score early - that's our plan. If we had managed to put away the good chance we had in the second minute, I think the game would have been very different."

Nonetheless, the former Singapore international was very critical of his side's packed fixture schedule, with next Wednesday's game against Albirex being their fourth in eleven days.

"We have to thank the FAS [Football Association of Singapore] for us having to play four games in eleven days," Tay added.

"It was clear for all to see that all the players were just too tired to get the win today [Saturday]. After the first half, most of the boys just couldn't run anymore."

With a potential title decider just days away, the Stags boss was unable to confirm if injured anchorman Mustafic Fahrudin would recover in time to face Albirex, although he backed his reserve players to step up to the task.

"Hopefully Mustafic will be back by Wednesday," he added. "He is still having a bit of problem with his groin.

"He is a crucial member of our squad but we have to learn to live without him if he is unavailable. The reserve players are always ready to come in and do a job."

Following Wednesday's game against the White Swans, Tampines will turn their attentions to the Singapore Cup semi-final clash with United Football League outfit Loyola Meralco Sparks.

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