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Monday, April 14, 2008


KOTA KINABALU: Drago Mamic will have to find the much-needed remedy to light up his demoralised squad ahead of the away clash against Johor Pasir Gudang at the Tan Sri Dato Hassan Yunos Stadium in Larkin tonight.

The Rhinos’ chief coach admitted that the team are at their record low of the season after the 2-1 home defeat to Kelantan that eventually ended their chase for the two automatic slots for promotion into the Super League next season. “I’m very disappointed because of what has happened to the team. It is not only me. The players are very disappointed too because they have been trying really hard,” said Drago, when contacted yesterday. “They are down I need to lift the confidence and morale of the players to be ready for the coming games, including tonight’s battle,” the Croatian added.

Drago said that despite the fact that they have missed the chance for promotion, it has not been a bad season for the squad. He said that in some instances where they lost their battles, they were actually the better team, adding that no team in the league can prove that they are better than the Rhinos.

However, he added there are several factors that contributed to Sabah’s defeats in crucial games. One of them, he said was one-sided refereeing.

Drago said that if the attitude of the referees (against Sabah) did not change, it will be difficult for the Rhinos to gain promotion. “I have been around for quite a while now, and from my observation, I think they did not do it accidentally, but I can say that it is been done intentionally because you don’t make the same kind of mistake again and again even if it is a minor one. “One our part, it hurt us because those small decisions influenced the results of the game,” said Drago. At the same time, Drago said losing key players in crucial games did not help the team at all.

This he said was due to the fact that the team are facing tough fixtures, having to play so many matches in a short period. “For instance, our new signing Kokhrei Dze Irakli had to play a total of five matches in 11 days. Plus the traveling that we did, I think it is just too much for the players because they hardly have had any time to recover,” said Drago.

But tonight, Drago could welcome back skipper Rosdin Wasli into his first team after missing the Rhinos’ last 10 matches. Rosdin was an unused substitute in the defeat against Kelantan and will be hoping to get some matches under his belt. Another player expected to return is attacking midfielder Jamie Phoenix, whose combativeness and skills were sorely missed in the last few games.

With five matches to go, Sabah can get a maximum of 49 points provided that they register victories in all the matches including tonight’s game.

That would surely put them among the top four in the league and if the rumour of the FAM’s plan to expand the Super League next season materialises, it could work in their favour to have another shot at promotion. Sabah are fifth in the 13-team table on 34 points, five behind Johor PG.

KL Plus top the league on 50 points, followed by Kuala Muda Naza on 48 points, while Kelantan trail in third place with 44 points.

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