SEREMBAN: Things aren’t looking good for Sabah at the moment, but its head coach and manager Gary Phillips is keeping his faith with his struggling side and he insists that their fortune will change for the better as long as they keep trying hard.
Sabah’s overall performance is actually on par with the elite in the Super League though they lost a few games.
After five games into the season, Sabah merely managed to nick a win, a draw and suffered three defeats, the latest one against Negeri Sembilan on Saturday.
And in all these defeats, Sabah only lost by a solitary goal, that makes a tally of three goals thus far. That shows how solid the defence is and which put them as third best in the League behind Perak and Kedah who has the best defensive records after conceding just one and two goals respectively.
Normally, teams with such a record will be high and dry at the top half of the standings, but not Sabah who find themselves languishing second from the bottom in the 14-team Malaysian Super League standings … no thanks to their impotent finishing.
This is a fact Gary admitted but refuses to press the panic button believing that if they work harder, the goals will flow.
On their loss to Negeri Sembilan, Gary admitted to the fact that they have lost to a better side that are of superior quality with five internationals for their own pickings.
But the Sabah coach finds no fault in his players.
“Last night (Saturday), the efforts by the players were excellent and I can’t fault them (for the defeat). Maybe one or two players were not their usual selves but they did try hard.
“Negeri Sembilan is a good side. They have four or five international players whilst most of our players have only seen action in the Premier League the last five years or so.
“And we need to remember the qualities they possessed and what we had but yet we managed to put up a good show against a team that have the best defensive record!
“Conceding three goals in five matches is a very good record, and now we just need to score goals.
“Scoring can come from the midfield just like what Frank Lampard does for Chelsea. If we can do that it will help the team. Shahrul (Azhar Ture) has been magnificent for the team and he has scoring abilities but he needs more support.
On Saturday, former international Hairuddin Omar, who netted the solitary goal of the match for Negeri Sembilan in the 76th minute, made the difference between the two sides.
“He did a good job for Negeri … he holds the ball well, and you can see that all of the time they centre the ball to him.
“We didn’t do that to them, and had he played for us, I think we could have won the tie,” said Gary.
But Gary said he is still proud of his charges.
“We had equal chances against Negeri Sembilan. They only scored one, and we had a couple of decent chances. We had one in the first half through Zainizam (Marjan) and the other from Farid (Ideris) in the second half.
“We are not too far away. We just need to keep trying. We defended really well, but we need to work on our final third. But I’m quite sure we are getting better.
Gary admitted that not having six players (M. Sivakumar, Jeremy Danker, Mohd Safuan Ibrahim, Sumardi Hajalan, and Leopold Alfonso Otong) through injury, sickness and disciplinary reason, is a big loss to Sabah or to any team.
“Any one of these six could have been in the first team (against Negeri Sembilan). But there’s not much we can do about it except to make full use of the players that are available.
“We need to keep our composure because it’s still early in the season. We must keep working and work harder and I’m optimistic things will change (for the better).
Gary also wants his charges to realise that things isn’t getting any easier.
“We need to keep trying a little harder and at the same time keep our composure. Some of the players also need to toughen up,” Gary added without mentioning any names.
Being a professional player, Gary also wants his team to act like professionals on all aspects like having enough rest, sleep, training hard and being disciplined to name a few.
The squad is staying put in Seremban before heading to Kuantan on Monday as they face Pahang on Tuesday before returning home.