KOTA KINABALU: Despite being seen as the better team on the night, Sabah had to bow out to their hard luck in the 0-1 defeat to Johor FC at the Likas Stadium on Tuesday.
It was a game they could have won with a little bit of luck on their side, but instead, the Gary Phillips boys saw lady luck smile on their opponents, who scored from one of the only two decent chances at their (Sabah) goalmouth.
Mohd Riduwan Maon was the punisher when he unleashed a grounder, defeating the hapless Sabah custodian Azizon Abd Kadir in a one-on-one situation after capitalising on a defensive error as he was left unmarked to go solo.
He struck the solitary goal in the 56th minute.
And that was one of the only two decent chances they had, and they scored compared to Sabah, who had at least three or four.
But failing to translate their chances into goals saw them ending their night disappointed.
Although it is still early in the season, twice they failed to get the result when they know too well that victory could have been theirs with better finishing.
The first time was against Kuala Lumpur where they lost with an identical scoreline.
It was the same story line. They had the better domination in the game, but poor finishing saw them returning home empty handed.
The same thing happened on Tuesday as they saw Johor FC walk home smiling with all the three points despite creating lesser scoring opportunities.
Sabah coach and manager Gary Phillips is aware of their impotent finishing in front of goal, but he is not about to press the panic button as yet, believing that the goals will come as long as they are more composed in front of goal.
But Gary could not hide his frustration and disappointment to see them lose the games that they could have won.
Nevertheless, he said there is no point to cry over spilt milk and that they must keep battling and keep working hard and get the results.
He admitted that against Johor FC the team did not play particularly well, before describing it as a “tired performance”.
“I’m particularly disappointed with the performances of four or five of our players. They were not the same kind of player/s as in our game against Kedah. This is all about consistency, and this is the thing that we need to fix quickly.
The only positive thing the team can take after four games into the season is they merely conceded two goals.
“To concede two goals from four games in any competition is a pretty good record. Unfortunately, our scoring has not been up to the mark yet. Or else, we could have been among the teams in the top half.
“So we just need to keep trying and try hard, and hope that luck will go our way. Like Johor FC, they rode their luck really well, and I hope it will happen to us in the future.
Gary also refused to fault his defenders for the goal, pointing out that they have done pretty well.
“Azizon, Reithuddin, Mafry and Hariri have been great for the team. If they keep playing the way they did in our last games, we will be okay,” said Gary.
And Gary has every reason for being calm despite picking up four points after four games from one win, one draw and two defeats, scoring one goal and conceding two.
“Last season, (ironically that) we also started our season with four points (also from one win, one draw and two defeats), and at end we still ended the season reasonably well.
And Gary said they must keep working hard, as the next two games away will be a tough assignment.
“We must take the positive side of things that we have gone through thus far. We must also realise that things will only get tougher from now.
“Negeri Sembilan are a talented side with lots of quality, and like us, their season has not been convincing too,” said Gary.
And Gary assured that “the longer we go, the better we get.”
After the Negeri Sembilan date (Feb 26), Sabah take on Pahang (March 1), but before the two dates, they will first switch their focus to the FA Cup where they will be facing Pahang in the first round of the knockout competition this Saturday.
Sabah’s next home game is against Harimau Muda A on March 12.
So fans out there better stay loyal and rally behind the team, as this is only the beginning of our quest towards realising our common goal of bringing glory to Sabah football.