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Monday, January 21, 2013

Critical points

New Sabah Times

KOTA KINABALU: Sabahawks take on Kedah in a tie that interim team manager Alijus Hj Sipil describes as a must-win clash at the Likas Stadium today. He said they can no longer afford to drop points away after throwing six (points) on the road from their last two away encounters with the latest being the 3-2 defeat to Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

 Earlier, Sabahawks also lost their first away game of the season after going down 1-3 to KL Sime Darby FC. “We cannot afford to lose more points especially from our home matches. We need to win this one (against Kedah) in order for us to keep the pace with the teams above us. “The three points (today) will also be critical for us to challenge for the top spots in the standings,” said Alijus ahead of the afternoon showdown, which will be the toughest of tests for the home side thus far this season.

 Sabahawks have won their previous two homes games, edging KL Putrajaya FC 2-1 in the opener before blanking NS Betaria FC 2-0. And Alijus is confident his charges will deliver yet again at the home turf, once dubbed as a fortress by most of the visiting teams. He has every right to have a confident feeling, as he hinted that defender Rhys David Weston could make a return for today’s clash after missing the team’s last three games, including the two away trips. Alijus said: “There is a big possibility that he (Rhys) will feature in tomorrow’s tie.

He has recovered from his hamstrings problem, but then again, it will still be up to our head coach (David McCreery) whether to put him back straight into the first team.” “But from what I can see, we need his (Rhys) presence in the team. So, with him available again, I’m very hopeful that things will improve, especially our leaky defence.

 For the record, Sabahawks has conceded seven goals after only for games into the season, with six of the goals conceded in away ties. Rhys, a former Arsenal trainee and captain of Scottish side Dundee, did not have the best of debut for Sabah in the League. He scored an own goal in the opening game, a victory over SPA Putrajaya FC, before limping off with a hamstring injury after only about an hour on the field.

 Besides Rhys, Alijus, without revealing, hints of more changes to the first team squad. “Apart from Rhys, other changes are also likely to be made. It will be the positions of several players who need to be rested. Four matches in the past 11 days are very tiring for some of them, and our coaching staff are doing their best to get the best possible team for the Kedah clash,” said Alijus. Sabahawks are currently sixth in the 12-team table while Kedah are two rungs above on nine points from three wins and a defeat.

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