Aqhari rallies Protectors to win it for club legend JJ as Young Lions await

Home United are ready to use Juma’at Jantan as their motivation when they take on Young Lions at Bishan Stadium on Wednesday night.

While the Protectors are ruing the legendary full-back’s absence, they have to focus on the task at hand if they are to get ahead of Tampines Rovers in the race for second spot in the Singapore Premier League (SPL).

BACKGROUND: It was a real body blow for Home, with veteran defender Juma’at ruled out for the rest of the season after breaking his shin bone in a 10-1 friendly win over amateur side Jungfrau Punggol FC last week.

Accumulating 442 appearances in 11 seasons with the Protectors, the 34-year-old played a crucial role in helping the club to reach a second straight AFC Cup zonal final.

His experience will be sorely missed as Aidil Sharin’s men look to kick-start their stuttering SPL campaign and achieve back-to-back league wins for their first time this season.

Home put up a convincing display to down a much-improved Brunei DPMM FC side 3-1 a little over a week ago – a morale-boosting result as they look to chase down Tampines in second spot.

The uniformed outfit trail the Stags by eight points as they sit in fifth with 11 from eight games.

“To have JJ (Juma’at) out for the season affects all of us because he plays such an important role in this team as the father figure,” defender Aqhari Abdullah told FOX Sports Asia.

“Nonetheless we wish him a speedy recovery and we will play 100 percent in every game to get a win for him because I’m sure that’s what he wants us to do.

“It was a great feeling to beat a quality team like DPMM and it vindicated the hard work which we put in training. Albirex are cruising to another title from the looks of it and no one can stop them.

“For us, we aim to finish as high as possible and, of course, to play in the AFC Champions League qualifiers.”

Up in their tracks is a Young Lions outfit, which have made massive strides this season but are showing signs of jadedness as they face up to their eighth game in 29 days.

Youthful exuberance gave way to experience and guile as they fell to a pair of defeats (0-4 and 1-3) against Tampines last week – extending their winless run to four matches.

The developmental side remain in the upper echelons of the table though as they occupy fourth spot, with 12 points from 10 matches.

Coach Fandi Ahmad believes his Young Lions need to hit the net with more frequency to get back to winning ways – only bottom-placed Hougang United FC have scored fewer than their tally of 11.

“We pushed Tampines so hard so it’s disappointing not to get a point off them,” said the 56-year-old, who doubles up as Singapore National Team Coach till the end of the year.

“Generally, we are not bad but we need to score more goals. We need other strikers (apart from Ikhsan Fandi) to come into play.”

History is against the Young Lions in this one, with their last victory against Home at Bishan Stadium coming all the way back in August 2014 – they prevailed 3-0 then courtesy of goals Shameer Aziq, Sahil Suhaimi and Jordan Webb.

TEAM NEWS: Apart from Juma’at, Home will continue to miss the services of Fazli Ayob – with the utility man still recovering from torn ankle ligaments.

However the Protectors will welcome back defensive midfielder M. Anumanthan from a one-match suspension.

As for the Young Lions, wide men Zulqarnaen Suzliman and Naqiuddin Eunos are unlikely to be back for duty while midfielder Jacob Mahler is nowhere near full fitness.

FORM GUIDE:

Home United FC: DWWLW
Young Lions: WDDLL

PREVIOUS MEETINGS:

31/10/17 Home 4-0 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
21/05/17 Young Lions 1-2 Home – Singapore Premier League
27/02/17 Home 6-1 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
30/09/16 Home 5-2 Young Lions – Singapore Premier League
11/06/16 Young Lions 2-2 Home – SingaporePremier League

KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:

Sirina Camara (Home United FC)

Camara has been used sparingly and mostly off the bench this season, but that has not stopped him from playing a vital role for the team. With six assists and two goals to his name, the 27-year-old has played the role of impact sub to perfection and his pace is always an asset against tiring defences in the second half.

Ikhsan Fandi (Young Lions)

Who else but him? With four goals in his last five outings, Ikhsan is the go-to guy for the Young Lion’s source of goals. Admirably the 19-year-old has done so despite carrying niggling knocks and he will surely be relishing the opportunity to prove his worth against his former employers.

WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:

Home defender Aqhari Abdullah: “It’s always a good feeling knowing your strikers will score (Home have scored in 16 games in all competitions this season). Shahril (Ishak), Song (Ui-Young) and Hafiz (Nor) are doing so well in the final third – that gives the rest of the players more confidence knowing our strikers are sharp and clinical.

“I’ve seen Young Lions play a couple of times. They are well-organised and fit, but we’ll go out there and get the three points. It’s not easy as the whole team is fasting in this period, but it’s not an excuse to not work hard. Collectively we know what is at stake and we want to achieve it together.

Young Lions midfielder Joshua Pereira: “The schedule has been tough on us, but that’s how it is and we just have to work our way around it. If I get selected to start again, I’ll give it everything I got as I always do.

“Coach Fandi has spoken about the rest of the team needing to step up to score goals. Me and the other midfielders do need to support our strikers more and take more shots.”

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