Friday, July 20, 2012

Opponent Watch: Balestier Khalsa

After Tuesday night's encouraging performance against Tampines, our fixture against Balestier Khalsa could not have come at a better time. The Tigers, who enjoyed a great start to the season under the tutelage of Darren Stewart, have lost their last three games on the trot and faltered most recently at home to a meek 3-0 victory to Hougang United.

While Stewart would hope to arrest this slump by getting a favourable result at Woodlands, the Rams seem to have other plans of their own for this encounter. After ditching their defensive tactics in favour of an exciting, attacking game against Tampines, confidence is now high in the dressing room as Woodlands managed to take the game to the league champions and displayed plenty of promising movement in their opponents' half.

The loss to Tampines resulted in Woodlands' 14th game without a win this season - and their second consecutive loss after drawing with Geylang in June - but it certainly did not affect the spirit of the fans, and especially the players, and the rejuvenated Rams will now seek to go for the Tigers' jugular right from the start.

Woodlands fans singing and showing their appreciation to the players after the Tampines fixture.
Photo Credit:  Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

A shortage of goals in recent matches seemed to lead to Balestier's downfall. The Tigers have only scored 1 goal since the restart of the league following the mid-season break, courtesy of their nifty midfielder Ruhaizad Ismail, and came up short in their last 2 matches against Gombak United and Hougang United.

Former Persib Bandung striker, Zdravko Dragićević, was roped in by Balestier during the mid-season break but the 26 year old Montenegrin has failed to find the back of the net in 3 outings so far. The 1.80m tall player will be fancying his chances against Woodlands and must be closely watched.

On paper, Woodlands and Balestier's midfield seem to be evenly matched as former Tiger Armanizam Dolah looks set to lock horns with his former mentor, Tengku Mushadad. Guntur Djafril, Neil Vanu and Goh Swee Swee will also be looking to test their blistering pace against Balestier's Ruhaizad Ismail  and former Gombak star Park Kang-Jin.

We should see plenty of running from both sides tonight.
Photo Credit:  Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Meanwhile, recent national team call-up Joey Sim is almost certain to start in goal for the Tigers in place of reserve goalkeeper Zakariah Nerani, and the former will make full use of this chance to impress Darren Stewart and reclaim the number 1 spot in the team after he was dropped following a 3-1 loss to Brunei DPMM in May.

Woodlands top scorer Moon Soon-Ho and his strike partner, Hussein Akil, will also be looking to slip past the defensive pairing of Paul Cunningham and Goran Subara. While Balestier's early season success was largely due to the fantastic work of Cunningham and Subara, recent results show otherwise. Moon's ability of being equally adept with both feet, as well as Hussein's pace and telepathic understanding with the Korean, should be put to good use against a Balestier defence that is currently low in morale.

Balestier striker Zulkiffli Hassim should also be on the prowl and he will be looking to make amends for his dismissal in March after mouthing racist remarks against the big Trinidadian Fabien "Fari" Lewis.

Zulkiffli Hassim's dismissal in our reverse fixture
Photo Credit:  Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

With their recent propitious display, we can expect Woodlands to play the same electrifying game which they did against the Stags. If the boys continue like how they did against Tampines, this may well be the night where we end our losing streak.

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

Match Information
Date: Tuesday, 20th June, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Woodlands Stadium

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