S.League | Hougang Stadium | Thurs 23 Jun| 8.00pm
Chance for Warriors FC to end their 17-match winless run in away matches in all competitions.
After ending winless streaks (coincidentally against the same opponents, Geylang International) in their respective last matches, Hougang United and Warriors FC will be relishing the opportunity to kick on in this fixture.
Hougang ended a run of six matches without a win over the weekend as they came away from Bedok Stadium with a plucky 2-1 win over Geylang.
Second-half goals from strike duo Jozef Kaplan and Stipe Plazibat ensured they ran out victors, despite Amy Recha’s late consolation.
Meanwhile Warriors got their first win in 11 outings last Wednesday by upsetting the Eagles 2-0 at their Choa Chu Kang den, with Croatian playmaker Nikola Rak scoring in the first and last minute to inspire them to their first win under caretaker coach Razif Onn.
Those results meant Hougang pulled level on 22 points with third-placed Home United, while the Warriors are within four points of catching up with fifth-placed Brunei DPMM.
Despite having their six-match unbeaten home run ended by Albirex Niigata (S) a week ago, Hougang remain a formidable force, especially when playing in front of their own supporters.
The Cheetahs should be feeling confident facing off against a Warriors outfit that has lost their last four away matches. This extended their woeful form in away matches, as they are still seeking a first win in 17 away matches, in all competitions.
One has to go back all the way to May 2015 for their last official away win, where they thrashed Albirex 4-0 at Jurong East.
The Warriors faithful is surely waiting with bated breath to see if their beloved side can buck the trend this time round.
Hougang have no major injuries or suspensions for this game, with centre-back Yusiskandar Yusop back in contention after marking his return from injury with a 14-minute cameo against Geylang.
Meanwhile Warriors captain Zulfadli Zainal Abidin continues to miss out due to his red card against Albirex, with Shaiful Esah most likely deputising again at left back.
Key Battle: M. Anumanthan vs Nikola Rak
It will be an interesting duel right down the middle between these two players.
After a slow start to the season, Rak is slowly coming into form with the creative midfielder influential in their last two matches (one goal one assist against Albirex, followed by two goals against Geylang).
The man tasked to stop him in his tracks should be Anumanthan, who has been an ever-present in the heart of the Hougang engine room.
The 21-year-old’s ‘take-no-prisoners’ approach allows midfield partner Raihan Rahman the freedom to push up and link up with Fumiya Kogure in attack.
Both coaches have plenty to ponder on ahead of this clash.
Hougang coach K.Balagumaran will need to decide whether to stick with Nurhilmi Jasni on the right flank, or bring back Fairoz Hasan.
The former LionsXII assistant coach could even give Nur Ridho Jafri – who contributed the assists for the two goals against Geylang – a chance in the starting eleven.
Meanwhile Warriors counterpart Razif Onn has a headache in terms of whether to stick with the centre-back partnership of Hafiz Osman and Kento Fukuda which worked so well against Geylang, or to restore Madhu Mohana to pair up with Fukuda.
Facts and Figures
- Warriors have the clear upper hand based on head-to-head records. In 32 official match-ups, they won 22 times while Hougang triumphed six times. The other four matches ended in draws.
- In the earlier encounter this season, Hougang won 1-0 at Choa Chu Kang courtesy of a Kogure stunner from distance.
- Hougang have won their last two meetings (4-1 and 3-2) with the Warriors at Hougang Stadium, with both games coincidentally ending with five goals.
- Hougang have scored seven times after 81 minutes – the most by any team this season, while the Warriors have the second-most with six.
- Hougang have kept just one clean sheet in their last 10 games, after three shutouts in the first five.
- Warriors have three wins in 15 league matches so far, while Hougang has twice that number.
- Hougang’s Stipe Plazibat and Warriors’ Jonathan Behe are locked on ten goals each – one behind Home United’s Ken Ilso and two behind Albirex’s Atsushi Kawata
- After one goal in 14 matches, Hougang captain Jozef Kaplan has two in the last two matches.
Hougang are understandably the favourites to win this, but the Warriors have looked rather good since Onn took over. It may well be an entertaining 2-2 draw.