If you ask the hardcore Rhinos fans to be patient they will probably reply- “we have been patient for 5 years now, how much longer do you expect us to wait for success”. Well the answer to that is less than 1 year.
I attended Friday nights game against Felda United and trust me when I say we are on the right track. Despite the 0-0 draw, the team has obviously been well coached and credit must be given to head coach Wathiq and his assistants Mohd Asyraaf and Burhan Ajui. In the 1st half we were compact and played as a unit. By this I mean the team moved up and down the pitch together and there was no huge gaps or holes between the players as per previous seasons.
However, as is so often the case with Malaysian football, the 2nd half was a different story. Suddenly there was a lot of space for both teams as players got tired which made playing together as a unit almost possible. One of the challenges for Sabahs coaching staff is to get the players fitness to a level where they do not fatigue in the last 25 minutes of the 2nd half. This will allow us to move up and down the pitch in close contact with each other. From here it will be easier for us to maintain possession and ultimately create goalscoring chances.
As a foreign striker in the 90,s, I always told myself to be patient and that I would definitely get goalscoring chances late in the 2nd half. This was because I knew the local players would fatigue and the game would open up like the Grand Canyon. My job was to keep myself fresh enough so that when those chances came, I was able to hit the target.
Any team that does not concede a goal in 450 minutes of football is doing something right. HOWEVER, we have only scored 4 goals in 5 games which is a concern. My observation for our attacking play from Friday nights game is as follows,
– the wide players should be crossing into dangerous areas around the six yard box instead of trying to pick out individual players. They only need to create half a yard of space before whipping in a dangerous cross .
– from here our wide players need to understand the importance of missing the 1st defender when he crosses the ball. Nothing more frustrating than for the wide player to get into a promising crossing area, only for him to hit it to low and be easily cleared by the 1st defender at the near post. If they cross the ball with speed and zip and miss the 1st defender into the 6 yard box then there job is done.
– our strikers in my opinion are too static inside the box. At the moment they are only moving once the cross has been made. They need to start taking chances and make there runs before the wide player crosses the ball. The wide player knows his job is to whip the ball into the 6 yard area. So even before he crosses the ball our strikers must be making runs across the face of defenders. If they can get in front of defender with a well timed run then obviously they have a chance to score as they will make contact with the ball before defender does.
– By standing and waiting we become too easy to mark. Matlan and I rarely spoke off the pitch but on the pitch we were always moving and we knew when to take chances around the box and when to hold and shield the ball around the half way line.
– Another tactic not used is for one striker to dummy/leave the ball for his partner, then spin and get the ball back off his strike partner. This will leave him running at speed into opponents box which is a dream come true for all quality strikers.
Zaykiel Leong will make a huge difference to this team. He has speed and im looking forward to him forging a dangerous partnership with Zanizam Marjan who has been very impressive thus far this year. He is playing in the hole between midfield and up front and im sure he will provide the ammunition for Zaykiel to score regularly.
Unfortunately, Sabah lost Monday nights game to Malacca 3-0. The away game curse has once again hit us. Playing on Friday and then traveling to West Malaysia on Sunday is very tiring by anyones standards which is why the players fitness levels must be at there absolute maximum. Out of interest, I wonder how many of the players smoke. Are the players conscious of there food intake, sleep patterns and rest periods. At the end of the day, all these little things make the difference between winning and losing.
So remember Rhinos fans- PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE. Lets hope the lads can get on a winning run from here on.
See you next month.