The S League has stealthily returned though in the midst of the euphoria from the Youth Olympics, not many had missed the local professional football league.
The league had been taking a battering from the local audiences who forsake the game for ages now; claiming the seasoned professionals barely even playing second fiddle to 15 year old boys.
Knowing my fellow countrymen, one can take such comments with a pinch of salt.
Anyway, the dwindling attendance continues to plague the local game as the past 4 games since Monday serve as a testament but the matter of the league champions continue to heat up.
As for second bottom placed Sengkang Punggol, unless a drastic drop of form or a miraculous run by Woodlands Wellington (who just lost to Home United at home), it could be safely said that they live another day and starve off the cellar for the 4th year running.
However the prime objective was still 8th placing and with Balestier Khalsa claiming their 9th win of the season with that 2-0 win over Young Lions, I would say 9th placing would be a safer bet though the team had to ensure they do better than the Japanese & Chinese youngsters of Albirex & Beijing respectively.
The final stretch began with a testy game at Choa Chu Kang stadium, the venue where the team brilliantly clinched a win over home team SAFFC in the League Cup in March.
Richard Bok’s Warriors are in the back of a horrendous run of result which was an unheard of 4 match losing streak.
The break might actually do them some good to compose themselves and re-instill the winning mentality.
Thursday game surely is one they would be out for blood with their injury-plagued squad finally getting their act together.
Even with old SAFFC boy Kenji Arai in our ranks, I don’t bet we can get anything there. A slender loss would be an encouraging result.
This is closely followed to a trip to Clementi against SAFFC’s arch uniformed nemesis, Home United.
The red hot team could really win with their eyes shut these days though they needed some luck at Woodlands last evening.
Sengkang Punggol’s past record against the Protectors had not been good, so another game that I would not bet on.
Entertaining fellow strugglers Albirex at home could be a decider to see who will finally finish above the other.
Albirex will have a seemingly easier late run-in with games against Young Lions, Woodlands and Beijing, so seriously a must win for the Dolphins over the White Swans.
Away games at Young Lions and Geylang United would not be a walk in the park but scrapping for a point or two would not be too hard to ask for.
Playing Tampines Rovers as their second last game of the season at home, the Stags might need the points to win their coveted first league title in 5 years.
Would not mind Sengkang Punggol proving an unwanted obstacle, of course without the expense of Etoile winning it.
Finally the trip to Yishun Stadium where the team had some dominance over, hell even Ryan Fante scored there.
So one will expect a decent performance there if the team aren’t shrouded by injury or suspension problems.
Not the easiest run of game but to get 9th or 10th position in the final standings is still achievable, so we’ll see.
For those who might not have read this, S League.com correspondent Paul Green caught up with Kenji Arai to delve into his sudden reappearance in the S league and what prompted him to join Sengkang Punggol.
A decent read seen here.
As a pragmatic viewer of the game, I always emphasized on the fact that numbers don’t lie and since Kenji had donned the cyan & marigold strip of Sengkang Punggol, he had assimilated comfortably to help a defense which was not exceptionally leaky but just a bit too novice.
The outcome sees the team conceding merely 10 in 10 matches including a stunning run of 1 in last 5. (It was 25 in the previous 16).
Not taking away the likes of Fadhil Salim (who had a great campaign, even more outstanding than his 2 seasons at Gombak) and other defenders like Ratna, Nor Azli et al; Kenji’s arrival bolstered the confidence of the team at the back for sure.
This was what the earnest Japanese defender had to say for signing with the perennial strugglers:
“I’m happy to be playing at Sengkang,” said the man cheerfully, “as I wanted to help Aide (Iskandar) who is a good friend and whose coaching I believe is very good.
“I am only on a six-month contract. After that I’ll just see what happens.”
The defender would not rule out staying with the Dolphins for the 2011 campaign, or playing for another S.League club if the offer was right, but is still ambitious enough to want to try his hand elsewhere overseas.
So for love of god, do retain him next season if the club want to achieve a more respectable showing (i.e. not bottom 3) and build a team with Kenji, Fadhil & Mamadou as the nucleus.
Certainly a wee bit too early to advocate for this though.
|Opponent: Woodlands Wellington
Date: 8th Aug, 1945hrs
Venue: Woodlands Stadium
Final Score: 0 – 1(Jordan Webb 80″)
|Jordan Webb finally vanquished his goal scoring drought at the ground he scored his very last back in March.
3 points for the good which stretched our advantage over the bottom dwelling Rams to 8 points and kept us within reach of Albirex and Balestier.
|Opponent: Gombak United
Date: 4th Aug, 1930hrs
Venue: Jalan Besar Stadium
Final Score: 0 – 0
|Once again having a decent goalkeeper makes a difference.|
Circa February 2010.
After losing a hotly contest League Cup semi final duel against Etoile, Sengkang Punggol played under the sweltering heat of a Sunday 5pm kickoff and went on to vanquish Gombak United in the third place playoff with a 2-1 final score.
It was the second time in that early part of the season that the Dolphins came on top with the similar scoreline.
2 weeks later, bouyed by their fine run in the cup, Sengkang Punggol traveled north to Woodlands Stadium to face the Rams and came off with a rather scrappy victory.
The second win in just 4 league games propelled the Dolphins to mid table comfort but it went free falling since then.
Half a year gone, the season looked increasingly bleak for Sengkang Punggol as the team was doomed to finish bottom (surprisingly for the first time in 4 seasons) until the recent resurgent that brought a minuscule ray of hope that the team could struggled out of the final two.
In order to achieve that, winning all winnable games are crucial.
Considering the strength that belies the Sengkang Punggol squad, we cannot easily dismiss any opponent but beating a Gombak side robbed of their first choice rightback and custodian as well as not finding the net in 3 consecutive games as well as a Woodlands team that is candidly playing for experience and pride now; is definitely not a tall order.
A single goal victory against both teams would be heaven sent if the script is written correctly and the bus actually arrives on time.
The projected 8th place in the final standings might even be achievable, which should be a real perk for a team always entrenched in the nether region.
|Opponent: Etoile FC
Date: 27th July, 1945hrs (started 11 minutes late)
Venue: Queenstown Stadium
Final Score: 0 – 1 (Frederic Mendy 31″)
Another slender defeat against an opposition who should had left the Dolphins high and dry with the ability they possessed.
Traffic jam robbed the team’s preparation time on the UNESCO World Heritage relic of a pitch at Queenstown but the boys put on a gutsy displayed and ruffled the feathers of the home team (hey since they are the cockerels) both on and off pitch.
Comments from anyone who attended the game?
There had been some reports of a small vocal contingent in matches involving Sengkang Punggol of late to cheer the lads and certainly done its part to buoy the team in a recent resurgence in form.
Read on The Phenomenon’s blog about a band of diehard Manchester United fans rendering their support at Hougang Stadium in the recent home tie against Beijing Guoan Talents.
One of this Red Devils supporters made their presence felt on this blog which i felt ought to deserve a post on its own for their effort:
Hello folks! Yes, it was indeed really heartwarming to see the Dolphins show their fortitude in holding on for 2 gritty wins.
A short intro of myself: a few of my buddies and I are Manchester United fans who have decided to not just watch EPL, but to support the growth of our nation’s football as well. As such, we have decided to adopt Sengkang Punggol FC as “our” club to stand by (though I personally live in the west side! *grin*). Mainly in part due to our support for our good friend Aide Iskandar, and now by extension, the whole of SPFC.
Also, to show that supporting a team doesn’t mean that we only follow winning teams, but that we stand by our team through thick and thin. Our dream is to do our small part to help grow the fan base for Sengkang Punggol.
Hence, it is from 18th July vs Beijing Guoan that we took that step of faith, and stepped up to cheer our team on. It is not right for us to claim for ourselves the credit for the last two wins – mainly, the boys themselves fought with their hearts out for those precious 6 points, as well as Aide’s tactical genius – but I must say that it just goes to show how crucial fans’ vocal support is for our boys. It gives them the impetus to fight for the whole 90+x minutes on the field.
Hope to be able to meet you and other fellow SPFC fans on Tuesday vs Etoile @ Queenstown stadium, the same small but vocal contingent of us be there again to will the boys on for (hopefully) another shock win over the French lads.
Once again coach Aide’s influence in the local game over the years continued to reap its dividends for the perennial minnows whose support rely mainly on the local residence and perhaps a few punters.
This is an encouraging act from Merv and his crew and certainly hope their continual support can boost the morale of the team who was rarely warm from the away team supporters in the stand for fixtures away from home.
|Opponent: Balestier Khalsa
Date: 23rd Jul, 1930hrs
Venue: Jalan Besar Stadium
Final Score: 1- 0 (Kenji Arai 24′)
A back to back win since May last year. Winnable games were finally won.
All thanks to the sprightly archiver of S League records, Mr HenryO, we can see how Sengkang Punggol can match their best season back in 2003 when they were known as Marine Castle:
Assuming that the second half of the season is made-up of 16 games (from Game 18 to Game 33), Sengkang’s current standing in the 2nd half is:
P4, W0, D2, L2, F3, A8, Pts 2, GD-5
Pos: 7th in 2003
- Currently at 11th, only better than Woodlands.
Pts: 19 in 2003
- Currently at 2, need 18 more from last 12 games.
W: 5 in 2003
- Currently at 0, need 5 more from last 12 games.
L: 7 in 2003
- Currently at 2, can not afford 5 more.
GF: 36 in 2002
- Currently at 3, need 33 more from last 12 games.
GA: 25 in 2003 (3-rds era only)
- Currently at 8, can not afford 17 more.
GD: -9 in 2003 (3-rds era only)
- Currently at -5.
Things hardly look too encouraging as it is arh…
One word to epitomize it all: Remote.
Numbers just don’t lie.
Not really a pre-match review as I cannot provide you more than what the official homepage of the S League actually offers.
In the midst of Woodlands Wellington’s mauling by SAFFC, it would be a real joke if we do not climb up above them in the final standings.