Hougang United are gunning for a second Singapore Premier League win to continue their form when they take on Brunei DPMM on Sunday.
A belated first win of the season in the Singapore Premier League (SPL) has lifted spirits in the Hougang United camp, but their next task will be a difficult one as they take on Brunei DPMM at the Singapore National Stadium on Sunday evening.
Hougang’s season has finally gotten the lift-off that they desperately needed as they attained their first victory in 11 tries last weekend with a hard-fought 1-0 away victory over much-improved Balestier Khalsa.
Philippe Aw paid the price for a poor start to the season previously with three draws and seven defeats, making way for a new management team with Clement Teo appointed as interim coach and Salim Moin roped in as his assistant.
With the duo guiding from the sidelines, the Cheetahs put up a resolute defensive display – coupled with some goalkeeping heroics from Khairulhin Khalid – and managed to prevail through a superb second-half header from Captain Nurhilmi Jasni.
The result has given the Northeast-based club a fighting chance to avoid a repeat of 2015 where they finished wooden spoonists. They are now just five points behind second-from-bottom Geylang International, with two crucial games in hand.
Nurhilmi wants his side to continue the momentum as they look forward to a difficult clash against DPMM at the iconic Singapore Sports Hub on Sunday night.
“There are no drastic changes (despite Aw’s dismissal). It’s just about getting the confident back and enjoying our football, which Coach Clement has emphasised on,” the 31-year-old told FOX Sports Asia.
“To be honest, it wasn’t our best performance (against Balestier) but our objective was to win and we did it. It’s all about positive thinking now in the dressing room and we definitely want to collect more points to climb the table.
“DPMM’s playing with a lot of confidence this year… But if we keep our belief and stay focused, we have every chance of stopping them. It’ll be a great experience for all of us to play on a great pitch and we can admire it as much as we want, but the main objective to get a good result for the team.”
Indeed it will be not an easy task for Hougang as DPMM plundered six goals to defeat Geylang International 6-2 away the last time out.
The front three of Mojtaba Mollasaraei, Volodymyr Priyomov and Adi Said has looked good this season, with the trio combining to devastating effect and finding themselves on the scoresheet against the Eagles.
While the Wasps are now in fifth with 14 points from nine games, they can close the gap between them and second-placed Tampines Rovers FC to just two points if they win their two games in hand.
Goalkeeper Wardun Yussof believes his side is poised for a strong finish to the season, with 10 out of their 14 remaining games – after playing Hougang – being scheduled at home.
“Of course playing at home is a great advantage for us. We just need to keep focused for each game as it comes,” said the 36-year-old.
“Indeed our attack looks great with the imports linking up well with the locals. And let’s not forget we also have Azwan Ali (Rahman) supporting them. We just have to keep playing our style of football. We have been more organized and more focused in fitness (under Brazilian coach Rene Weber).”
Based on head-to-head records, DPMM are definitely the favourites to win this one – having lost just twice out of the last nine meetings.
TEAM NEWS: Hougang will miss young centre-back Illyas Lee due to a one-match suspension, while attackers Iqbal Hussain and Shahfiq Ghani remains doubtful after their recent injuries.
New signing Syaqir Sulaiman will, however, be available as he cleared the league’s mandatory Yo-yo test on Thursday.
Meanwhile for DPMM, first-choice goalkeeper Haimie Nyaring will serve the final of his two-game suspension so Wardun should continue to deputise for him in between the sticks.
Hougang United FC: LLLLW
Brunei DPMM FC: WDLLW
23/09/17 Hougang 1-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
19/09/17 DPMM 1-4 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
02/04/17 DPMM 2-0 Hougang – Singapore Premier League
26/08/16 Hougang 1-2 DPMM – Singapore Premier League
17/07/16 Hougang 0-2 DPMM – League Cup
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR:
Fareez Farhan (Hougang United FC)
He has not started many games this season, but one can bank on Fareez to make an impact whenever he is on the field. The 23-year-old came off the bench to deliver the inswinging corner for Nurhilmi’s match-winner against Balestier. Expect him to be thrown into the fray again if the going gets tough for the Cheetahs.
Adi Said (Brunei DPMM FC)
Much of the attention has gone to Priyomov this season, but it is Adi who has been producing the goods in recent matches. The effervescent 27-year-old had a blinder against Geylang where he scored two and assisted two. If he continues in the same manner, the Cheetahs defence will be in for a long night.
WHAT ELSE THEY SAID:
Hougang United midfielder Nurhilmi Jasni: “It feels great to be back playing as I’ve been working hard to get back onto the pitch. But I expect no favours; whoever works hard and are committed should play, it’s up to the coach to decide. It’s not about me, it’s about the team.
“It’s great to have Syaqir back with Hougang. I strongly feel that our team is lacking in experience, so having him back is a good addition as he can help to guide our younger players.”
DPMM goalkeeper Wardun Yussof: “The team’s in good shape now after Ramadan as we are back to our routine training. For myself, it wasn’t easy (to play against Geylang) after such a long time out and it’s not my decision whether I get to play or not. But I’m always ready if I’m needed.
“I’m excited for this game as it’ll be my first time playing at the National Stadium of Singapore. I’m lucky because we was supposed to have a game against Young Lions on 18th June but it got postponed.”