|Photo: Chris Harvey|
Balestier Khalsa v Hougang United
Toa Payoh Stadium, 7.45 pm
Gunning for a third win on their trot, Hougang United will travel the short distance to nearby Toa Payoh to face off with fellow cats Balestier Khalsa who went down to a surprising 0-1 defeat at Gombak United last week.
Seemingly revitalised after the mid-season break, the Cheetahs have notched consecutive victories over Tanjong Pagar and Geylang but they have had to dig deep in both matches.
Still lacking fluency and verve in their attacking play, Hougang are finding it difficult to put the ball in the back of the net, especially with main striker Mamadou Diallo firing blanks while Sobrie Mazelan and Basit Hamid have not been too prolific either.
They will not find things any easier against a notoriously difficult-to-break-down Tigers outfit, with the rock-solid figure of Paul Cunningham at the back who has helped the team to maintain the second-best defensive record in the league thus far.
But coach Nenad Bacina knows that he has an ace in his pack, in the form of winger Jordan Webb. Having come up with nine goals, the second-most tally in the league this season, the Canadian is by far and away Hougang’s top-scorer and their most creative player.
The mercurial talent with the outlandish hairstyle banged in a last-gasp winner against Geylang last week despite having a quiet game otherwise prompting Eagles assistant coach Noor Ali to describe him as a player who can conjure up something out of nothing. The rest of his team-mates will once again look to him to make the difference again, if it comes down to that in the end.
The key to determining which side comes out on top will probably lie in the midfield battle, where Hougang duo Azhar Sairudin and Ante Barac will face off with Park Kang Jin and Tengku Mushadad.
While Barac’s form seems to have faded somewhat, Azhar had an excellent game last time out against Geylang, controlling the midfield and even managing to score a superb goal from distance. Park and Tengku were well neutralised by Gombak in Balestier’s defeat and Hougang will have to do likewise to shut out their creativity and industry, which should then greatly improve their chances of victory.
Like their opponents, Balestier have not found goals easy to come by as well, with top-scorer Ruhaizad Ismail only having a total of four strikes. New signing Zdravko Dragicevic has not managed to score since his arrival during the mid-season break, and it remains to be seen whether he will be the answer to their goalscoring woes.
Balestier last five games: LLWLL
Hougang last five games: LLLWW
Previous meeting: Hougang 0 Balestier 1 (Hougang Stadium) (SOURCE)