KOTA KINABALU: Gary Phillips refuses to throw in the towel just yet, insisting that they are still in with a fighting chance to make the FA Cup second round.
The defiant Sabah coach and manager said nothing is over until they play the return leg tie on Saturday.
However, he is fully aware of the Herculean task that awaits them at the Darul Aman Stadium in Alor Star having to overcome the two-goal deficit.
“We are not dead and buried yet. We still have a lot to play for … anything can happen in football.
“We’ll just have to get back and be patient. We know we are good enough to create two or three chances, and if we can score on one of those occasions, then it is going to put them under pressure and from then on anything can happen … from set pieces, corners or free kicks.
“We only have to score two goals and then it goes into extra time and penalties so it’s not an impossible assignment,” said Gary.
Despite Gary’s ‘never say die’ attitude, Sabah’s fate in the knockout competition will lie in the hand of the players as it will be them who will be fighting the battle.
And whether they have the same kind of guts and spirit as Gary only time will tell.
And Gary knows pretty well that the job can only be accomplished with the right attitude among his players.
“As long as we can go there with the belief that we can get something out of it … we will have a fighting chance.
“We have no reason to fear them. They work hard but if we can match their efforts then we’ll get our chances.
On the first leg defeat, Gary was frustrated to see his charges losing the battle on the night despite giving all they could for the team.
He said that they seemed to match the Super League outfit before admitting they were paying the price for defensive errors that saw the visiting Kedah score twice – once in each half.
“I didn’t see Harold (John) making any saves throughout the night apart from picking up the ball twice from the back of the net.
“They scored twice from those two errors, and on another occasion, they also went close with a header.
“But on our part we also had our chances, one from Zainizam (Marjan) and a header from Mafry (Balang). Alto (Linus) also had two opportunities.
“So I am a bit disappointed and frustrated that we didn’t have the ending after a good build up in our attack. We had on numerous occasions threatened them with a solid build up in our attack especially in the first half, but there was no ending.
But anyway, Gary said this was a good experience for his charges, before reminding his players that this experience will be nothing if they don’t learn from it.
Asked on the quality of the Kedah side and if Sabah was on par, Gary said, that he knew Kedah was a solid side, but after watching the game, he insisted with more quality players they would be able to match and compete with their rivals.
“We need more quality whether it be a goalkeeper, defender, midfielder or striker … I think we need more quality.
“We probably need a left or right fullback …we probably need a central defender for cover as well. Henry (Parsi) and Reithauddin (Ag Emran) have played every game. Henry probably could have done with a rest last night and he looked a bit flat.
“Mafry (Balang) has been our Mr Fix. Last night he was probably our best player, and if something happens to him we’re in trouble.
“Apart from Mafry and maybe Reithauddin, Zainizam did very well last night. There are not a lot of other players that are demanding a place in the team every week. But I’m happy for Julamri (Muhammad) because I think he is slowly getting used to his new position and last night he did manage to make two or three crosses.
“Our problem is some of the players are good one week and not so good next week … we need consistency!”
In the game, Azlan Ismail was left unmarked inside the penalty area before nodding home the opener for Kedah in the 18th minute. Then with three minutes remaining, a defensive error by Henry Parsi at the backline allowed Saramsak Kram to seal Kedah’s victory.