KOTA KINABALU: Sabah coach and manager Gary Phillips refused to throw in the towel in their fight for Super League promotion although he knows too well that the championship could be decided tonight.
On paper, it seems that Sabah are fighting a losing battle in their quest for Premier League glory, as winning their remaining two matches, will not be enough for them to land their first silverware in more than a decade.
KL Felda United FC need just one win from their two remaining matches to take the crown. Even two points could be enough.
KL Felda United FC, who are leading the pack on 46 points, are four ahead of their challengers – Sabah and Selangor PKNS.
They will be crowned the champions of the 2010 season with victory over Harimau Muda at the Hang Tuah Stadium tonight.
And that will leave Sabah with the second spot at best. Even then, for them to finish their season in second spot is beyond their control as Selangor PKNS, who are level on 42 points with them, are holding a superior goal difference of 31 while Sabah 21.
If both Sabah and PKNS win their remaining two fixtures, then PKNSwill finish second unless Sabah can create some magic when they take on Melaka in their penultimate clash at the Likas Stadium (tonight).
They need a big, big win to stand any chance of pipping PKNS from second spot.
But with PKNS facing opponents – Shahzan Muda – who have conceded a total of 50 goals thus far, and currently languishing at the bottom of the table, it makes it almost impossible for Sabah to overcome PKNS in terms of goal difference.
Even Gary rather not set any goal target for his side, stressing that what is important is for them to get the three points.
“We just need to go out there and win the game. But if we can score seven or eight goals, that will be magnificent,” he said, when met at the team’s light training at the Likas Stadium yesterday.
However, Gary said it is not impossible for them to win big considering that they have beaten the same opponents 6-0 in the first round encounter away from home.
“We could have scored 10. We missed more chances than what we have scored,” he recalled.
Now Gary is seeking support from the home fans to cheer the team to victory.
“This is our last home game in the league and we have had a good home record, and I really hope to see a good crowd cheering the team.
“We still have some hope to win the championship. PKNS have one easy and one hard game to play. Felda have two hard games.
The Aussie insisted that with two matches left to play anything can still happen, reminding his charges no to give up their fight.
Gary said that even if they fail to get promoted, it has been quite a good season for the team.
He added that it would be easier for them next season as they already have a squad to work with.
He admitted that it would be a big disappointment if the team fail to at least clinch the promotion slot.
“Early in the season, no one expected us to be where we are. In our pre-season as well as during the break, we were not really tested apart from playing against kampung teams, and to be where we are considering all aspects of our preparations and so on, I think, the team have made quite an achievement.
“However, to be in the position we are in where we seem to be so close, but in the end you miss all those chances, it will be a great disappointment,” added Gary.
For tonight’s clash, Gary will not have the services of his two regulars in skipper Mohd Reithuddin Awg Embran and Bobby Gonzales.
Both players will sit out the game due to suspension.
Reithuddin is serving a two-match suspension after collecting his eighth yellow card of the season.
He received six yellow cards in the Premier League and another two in the FA Cup.
As for Bobby, he was shown the red card in the 0-1 defeat to USM FC last Friday after just seven minutes into the game.
Gary said Reithuddin’s leadership at the team’s backline will be missed, but still believes that his replacement is still capable of doing a good job for the team.