KOTA KINABALU: Sabah coach manager Gary Phillips is not taking any chances but will parade his best available squad when they take on Premier League newcomers Johor MP Muar at the Likas Stadium tonight.
The Aussie is a strong believer of an old English saying that “football is a funny old game” and that anything can happen in a match.
“You never take any match for granted,” said Gary, before giving an instance to the outcome of the game between English Premier League giants Liverpool and Wolves where it ended in a stalemate on Tuesday.
“This will not be an easy game,” Gary insists, despite knowing well that his team will be pitted against a club side that is currently languishing at the bottom of the 12-team standings.
“Even though MP Muar is bottom of the table, but things change very fast. Before our game against Armed Forces (last Friday), we were third from bottom, but now we are at mid table.
“The outcome of this game (against MP Muar) is very important as it could change things. So this is a must win game for us … and it is pressure for us because every one, especially the fans are expecting a good result when we play at home.
“For the first time this season we have depth on the bench. We have Alif (Mohd Radzi Hussin), Rosdin (Wasli) and Zainizam. It will be pressure for the first eleven. If they are not playing well, these players are ready to take over from them,” said Gary, before adding that Bobby Gonzales and Gasili Pengalot are the only two players still on the injury list.
“I’m expecting Bobby to be back in the next couple of games. He may not feature in the FA Cup on Tuesday, but I think he will be available for the return leg.
And Gary is happy to see how the team is progressing.
“I’m happy with our entire week. We have been focusing on the third half of the pitch where we were practising on our offensive game.
“We have also been working on our finishing, but then again we need to have a strong defence before we could even think of attacking.
Gary said that the victory over Armed Forces was a big win for them and that it has instilled greater confidence in the team.
“Following the win, there is so much confidence in the team and among the players. It was a big win for us.
“And I’m ‘quietly confident’ we will win the game as long as we go into the match with the right attitude … with the wrong attitude we will be having problems.
To a question on whether he is going to make any changes, Gary hinted that he is likely to be sticking to his winning side.
However, he added that he will give it a good thought before making his final choice.
“Rosdin was playing well when he came in, in the second half against Armed Forces. At the moment Zainizam … I see him as the best player in the squad. He is capable of changing the game from the bench.
“And Alif was one of the best players in our last three games. So now I just need to get the balance right.
“I’m happy with the back five, but tomorrow, I will start with Mohd Farid (Ideris) and either Razlan (Otto) or Zainizam will start alongside him in attack.
“We also need the balance in midfield. I like Christopher (Musa) and Alif. They have been doing pretty well thus far, but we need to find out the right balance.
“Yesterday morning (Wednesday) we had a video presentation. It was self evaluation for each player. If they can improve and play better individually, it will help the team.
Gary also hoped that his misfiring squad will start finding the net.
“We have been creating a lot of chances, and it is our duty to score goals. I hope there will be many goals tomorrow (tonight),” added Gary.
Thus far, Sabah only managed to score three goals from four games – in the 2-3 defeat to Harimau Muda and the 1-0 victory over Armed Forces. They held KL Felda United FC to a stalemate in the opener before losing 0-2 to Selangor PKNS.