Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Reaction: Woodlands vs Hougang

Following the goalless draw against Gombak United, little changes were made to the team's starting lineup. Salim Moin handed a start to home debutant Edward Tan, who impressed in the last match, as the injured Duncan Elias continues to recover from a thigh injury. Vincent Lee was given the nod ahead of K. Sathiaraj while midfielders Han Yiguang and Farizal Basri were also named in the starting eleven.

Capt. Daniel receiving his "Player of the Month" award from team manager Matthew.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Just before kickoff, team captain Daniel Hammond was presented with the WWFC Player of the Month award from Woodlands team manager Matthew Tay.It was also a night to remember for the Rams as the match was graced by the presence of Woodgrove Member of Parliament Mr. Ong Teng Koon, who elected to sit with the Black Sheep rather than the VIP area. Also in attendance were members of grassroots organization Woodlands Newmedia, led by Mr. Adrian Pereira, and a large group of students from Shuqun Primary. It was a packed home stand indeed, and the noise from the terraces were deafening to the ears.

Kids from Shuqun Primary enjoying themselves.
Photo Credit: James Lim
The home stands were packed!
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Hougang could have taken the lead as early as the third minute when Sobrie Mazelan reacted to Ahmadulhaq Che Omar's parry off an Ante Barac freekick, but the Hougang striker was denied by Woodlands' defensive stalwart, Fabien Lewis. The imposing Trinidadian worked doubly hard to cover his team-mates' backs and he was one of the spirited players who ran his heart out for the Rams. Edward Tan, who showcased his deadly left foot against gombak, nearly scored from a free kick two minutes later at the other end of the pitch but he put the ball narrowly over the crossbar, much to Hougang United's relief.

The dangerous Mamadou Diallo was snuffed out by workhorse Fabien Lewis. 
Photo Credit: FAS

Hougang were not to be denied in the 29th minute when the in-form Jordan Webb cut inside Vincent Lee's right and, to his credit, bent a sublime strike beyond the valorous dive of Ahmadulhaq Che Omar into the back of the net. Sensing how uncomfortable Vincent was against the speedy Webb, Coach Salim soon replaced Lee with regular right-back K. Sathiaraj in the 30th minute.

The halftime break saw the club presenting letters of appreciation to Shuqun Secondary, Woodlands Newmedia and The Black Sheep for their support.

Letter presentation to Woodlands Newmedia's Mr. Adrian Pereira
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

The match turned into a nightmare for the Rams early in the second half when the Cheetahs poured forward looking to put the game out of reach, and as the ball broke to Barac inside the box following Webb's serpentine dribble on the left flank, he was adjudged to have been fouled in what looked like a dubious refereeing decision. Webb made no mistake from the spot as he fired past the outstretched Ahmadulhaq to send the visiting supporters into dreamland.

Stanislav Vidakovic must have been counting his blessings when Mamadou Diallo's wayward shot deflected off the Hougang defender for the Cheetahs' third goal. In such a weird and cruel turn of the cards, there was nothing much the Rams' defence could do, really.

Photo Credit: FAS

It was a time for cool heads as the Rams looked to recompose and steady the ship, and gradually we began to establish ourselves in the match. The energetic Hussein Akil tried his best to haul the team back into the game with his tireless running, while Farizal Basri also had a couple of close chances following some good work from Moon Soon-Ho.

Following the events of the match, Armanizam Dolah and Aloysius Yap were soon introduced into the Woodlands side to provide some fresh legs and the duo did not take long to create an impact. Receiving a ball on the right of Hougang's penalty box, Aloysius played it back to Armanizam, who swung in a prospective cross. The persevering Goh Swee Swee, who ghosted past the Hougang defence, gave the home crowd something to cheer about when he nodded home a bullet header off the crossbar past a helpless Fadhil Salim.

Woodgrove MP Mr. Ong Teng Koon (in yellow, showing thumbs up sign)
sportingly cheering along with the home crowd.
Photo Credit: James Lim

Encouraged by Swee Swee's goal, the home side tried to pile on the pressure on Hougang and Moon Soon-Ho nearly scored a second with a volley but this time Fadhil was equal to the task of keeping that one out. The Rams then continued pressing forward in the closing stages looking to score a second, but it was to no avail as the referee sounded the final whistle to cap a disappointing day.

While it was a despairing scoreline, it was endearing to see players such as Hussein Akil, Fabien Lewis and Goh Swee Swee adopting the "Never Surrender!" spirit and working hard even when it seemed that all hope was lost. Swee Swee's run into the box was unexpected by the Hougang defence, who left him unmarked, and he made his hard work pay off with a well taken header.

The effectiveness of Armanizam Dolah and Aloysius Yap, who created the solitary goal for the Rams, would also give coach Salim a headache in his team selection for the next match against SAFFC.

Armanizam's cross led to Swee Swee's delightful header.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

On the decision to substitute Vincent Lee following Webb's opener, assistant coach Clement Teo commented that “Vincent did well in training, we do give players who perform in training a chance to play. This is only his second start, and he’s a bit tense since he’s playing at home and had friends coming to watch him play. He tried initially but we felt it will kill off his confidence gradually if we left him out there.”

It is enheartening to hear from coach Clement that players are selected for the first based on their performance in training. We hope that this will spur our our boys on and facilitate the team to perform even better in the games to come. 

With this dismal defeat at home, the Rams are still in 9th spot and languish above Gombak United with a one point advantage. However, the Bulls have a game in hand and a bad result against SAFFC next week could see us drop further down the table. We need to start playing with confidence and winning our next few games.

Hussein Akil ran after almost every ball, showing lots of guts and determination.
Photo Credit: FAS

Against Hougang, we gave too much respect to our opponents. However, we showed glimpses of our early season form when we enjoyed a period of attacking against the Cheetahs right after Swee Swee's goal. We know that our boys are capable of beating anyone if we put our heart and soul into it. Let's see more fire, more determination, more spirit. That is the only way we're going to pick up from where we last left off in late February.

The formidable Warriors are up next and it will be no easy task to play them at the neutral Jalan Besar Stadium, although the Rams will be cushioned by the fact that the traveling Black Sheep will be there to support them every step of the way. We have our drums, confetti and voices ready as ever.

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

The Black Sheep and Hougang Hools enjoying a bit of camaraderie after the game.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

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