Source : New SabahTimes
28th January, 2008
KOTA KINABALU: Drago Mamic declares there is no crisis in the team, but admitted that the road to promotion now looks “rocky and bumpy” following the Rhinos’ yo-yo performances after eight matches into the season.
However, the Croatian said their challenge is far from over insisting that he has a squad that will fight all the way to the end.
He then stressed it is (now) important for them to win the remaining four matches in the first round in order to keep their fading hopes alive.
“We must win our four remaining matches and we will see it from there. Frankly there is no room for more slip-ups,” admitted the Rhinos’ head coach.
But he said collecting the maximum 12 points in their next four games would provide them the foundation to stage a strong fight-back in their bid to gain promotion when the second round battles resume.
The Rhinos begin their must-win mission tonight against club side Felda United FC at the Tawau Sports Complex.
The match was initially scheduled to take place at the KLFA Stadium in Cheras, but was switched to Tawau as the KLFA Stadium has been booked for another function.
“Consistency is the key to the team’s hopes. To become champions we must be able to win five consecutive matches. I believe the players can do it, but I don’t know when it is going to happen,” he added.
Sabah have yet to show any kind of consistency after completing eight games where they won only three times, drew twice and lost thrice.
But despite the unconvincing record, Drago said that there is nothing wrong with the team nor is there any crisis in the team … among the players or the management.
“I have no problem with the players and I don’t think there is any problem between the players and the team management.
“I cannot ask for more from the players because they have done more than what I have expected. I’m pleased with what they have given towards the team and they have been working really hard,” said Drago.
While not wanting to blame lady luck for their inconsistent showing, Drago admitted that sometimes they were just unlucky not to walk home with a victory, taking the Rhinos’ 1-0 defeat to Selangor PKNS as an example.
“It was a shocking defeat and a very unfortunate one.
“They had only one chance and scored. When you look at the game, people who watched the game know we could have won by five goals.
“For instance in the last 15 minutes, we created many chances but the ball just did not go in.
“We created chances and our problem was not being able to put the ball into the net.
“I’m not blaming anyone, but I guess, we need that little injection into the team,” said Drago as he hinted that they now desperately need a prolific goal-scorer to solve their problem.
“We just cannot blame our luck. Sometimes we need to a little injection into the team, and in our case we now need a good foreign striker to help us end our jinx.
At the same time, Drago also feels that playing their home games in Tawau could be one of the factors why the team failed to produce consistency.
“It is just my personal feeling. But it is a fact that we must admit. With due respect to the fans in Tawau, they have been great in supporting us even when things did not go our way. But, with all the traveling and staying in hotels even when we are playing host is no different to playing in away matches,” he said.
The Tawau Sports Complex Stadium has been the home venue for Sabah from towards the end of last season after the floodlights’ failure at the Likas Stadium.
The Rhinos are only expected to return to the Likas Stadium in the second round of the league.
Another factor that contributed to the team’s dismal record according to Drago was that Sabah have been playing with only one foreign import in defender Dragic Dalidor for most of their previous matches.
“Jamie (Phoenix) only returned to the team in the PKNS clash after recovering from injury.
Tonight, Sabah are likely to play with two foreign players in Dragic and Jamie as third signing Brazilian Andre Scotti has yet to receive his International Transfer Certificate.
The Rhinos are currently fifth in the 13-team league on 11 points and have a mammoth task of keeping pace with leaders Johor Pasir Gudang who have 22 points.