KOTA KINABALU: Youngster Mohd Farid Saibun will be handed a rare chance to spearhead the Rhinos’ attack when they resume their Premier League challenge after about a month’s break, against newcomers MBJB FC of Johor at the Likas Stadium tonight.
The Kota Belud-born Farid is almost certain to start in attack, replacing Alto Linus who has been firing blanks since he made his Sabah debut last month.
And the absence of Alto’s striking partner and team skipper Zainizam Marjan has forced Head Coach Wathiq Naji Jasim to make a tactical change to his game plan as he plots a victory.
Zainizam will miss the game due to a groin problem aggravated during training on Saturday.
However, Wathiq is not willing to brag about what is in his mind, but admitted the mission tonight is to go for a win!
This will be the first start for Farid, who turns 21 on March 19, this season. He did feature for the team in previous games, coming in as a substitute, including in the FA Cup defeat to Kuala Lumpur.
However, all this while he has been playing in midfield or the flanks, but Wathiq believes Farid has what it takes to become a top striker.
Wathiq is likely to make five changes to his first team that lost 1-0 to Kuala Lumpur about a week ago.
Besides Farid, Gasili Pangalot and Julamri Muhammad are both likely to make a return to first-team action after missing the Kuala Lumpur clash.
And the same also goes for Azrul Ejati Damsah and Leopold Alphonso Otong, who are also set to claim a place in the first team.
Henry Parsi, Rezuan Khan Aman, Selyvister Saini, Alto and Zainizam are the casualties.
Henry is not even in the first 18 for this MBJB FC clash, while Rezuan, Selyvister and Alto are on the reserves list.
No 1 custodian Irwan Jamil is still out injured so Harold John will be the ball stopper for the team with Mohd Salawi Jasad as cover.
Mohd Fariss Azlan Mat Isa, Hardy Charles Parsi, Mafry Balang and Billyton Vun Ket Ming are likely to retain their first-team places.
“Insya Allah … we will try to win the game,” said Wathiq when met at the Rhinos’ light training at the Kota Kinabalu Sports Complex Field B yesterday.
“Without any disrespect to our opponents, this is a game we must win because if we cannot do it, then it would be difficult for us to claim victory against stronger and more experienced teams,” he added.
Team manager Rahman Zakaria also concurred with his head coach that winning is all that matters tonight.
“We must not waste the opportunity of having the homeground advantage. We must try to get all the three points,” said Rahman, who was also at the Rhinos’ training scene on the fine Sunday morning.
“We had a discussion about our game plan, and I can say that there will be a slight tactical change, but it is not for me to reveal it,” Rahman said.
“Zainizam is having a groin problem and we are not going to take the risk and play him, and we have decided to try Farid in attack and let Alto sit on the bench.
“We will see how things work out, but there will always be Plan B if things don’t go our way in the game,” Rahman said.
Rahman also said that Wong Sai Kong will be handed the skipper’s armband in the absence of Zainizam.
Sabah kicked off their Premier League challenge with a 2-0 victory over SDM Kepala Batas at home with Leopold Alphonso Otong and Zainizam Marjan finding the net for the team.
They were then held to a scoreless draw by Proton FC in their first away battle. Tonight will be their third game of the season.
As for MBJB, they have yet to score a goal in the Premier League. They held Sarawak to a scoreless draw in an away battle but went down 1-0 to Kuala Lumpur at home.
In the FA Cup they were thrashed 4-0 at home by Perlis and went down 2-0 in Kangar.