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Thursday, January 14, 2016

Rhinos target top-four finish

By FRANCIS XAVIER Francis@newsabahtimes.com.my

 KOTA KINABALU: Datuk Nizam Abu Bakar Titingan has set a reasonable target for his new-look side. The Sabah Rhinos team manager said they are aiming for a top-four or five finish considering the fact that they have a mixed blend of young, experienced and new players in the team. “We will not set a high target for the team.

The team management hopes that our team will not be on the wrong end of the Premier League standings. Personally, if possible, I would like to see them occupy the top four or five in the Premier League standings from the start of the season until the end of the season, and that’s our target this season,” said Nizam after seeing his side notch a 2-0 win over FAM Cup-bound DYS FC at the UMS Stadium on Tuesday.

 When asked further on the team’s goal, he said: “It is the ultimate goal of every competing team (in the Premier League) of trying to gain Super League promotion, Sabah Rhinos included. But in our situation, we have so many young players and we would not want to put any extra burden on them. All we hope for from them is to give it their best shot and try to be among the contenders (for the title) this upcoming season.”

 On the tie, Nizam said that it was part of their preparations for the new season. “This is an opportunity for us to let the team adapt to their positions since this is a new team with new players, where some will be making their Premier League debut. “Although some of them have played in the President’s Cup or other club sides previously, so tonight (Tuesday) it gives them the opportunity to improve on their combination so that it could help improve the quality of the team in facing the Premier League challenge,” he said.

 Meanwhile, head coach Vjeran Simunic believes the state squad will be ready when the league gets underway, insisting that they are pretty much on the right path of the road as far as their preparations for the new season are concerned. Commenting on the tie, the Croatian said: “It’s just part of our training because I did not see it like a (football) game. I don’t have my best team yet because at this moment,

 I only have a group of players that I am working with to build a team for the upcoming season. “So, I’m really happy for all of them, especially because we are still in the phase of fitness training and not working with the ball yet. “That is why a game like this can sometimes be tough, and also sometimes can be dangerous (due to injury). But, I’m happy with everything that happened tonight (Tuesday night),” he said. Leopold Otong and Shafie Talib scored in either half to give Sabah Rhinos the win.

Simunic also expressed relief that none of his players came out of the game injured. He said that the players were put through tough fitness training in the morning of the match as he did not want to disrupt his training programme just for the game.

 “Usually you don’t play a friendly game after only seven days (of training). The match is a little bit out of my programme but I’ll be a little bit flexible and do a favour for some people to watch our team. “We did one very, very hard level of fitness training and I fear that maybe we can get injured or something in the match.

 “I’m sure my team will progress every week and so today (February 12), we are exactly one month to the start of the new season. Simunic also admitted he would love to sign former Sime Darby FC star striker Karlo Primorac. However, he added, his countryman’s fate will be all down to his health and fitness level. Simunic explained the exclusion of his main target (Primorac) who was down to him still adapting to the weather condition here.

 “He arrived here just three days ago from a country with minus 20 celcius and here it is like 35 plus celsius. Of course we are looking now for one target man for the foreign imports and I like signing him but firstly he must be healthy and fit. “It is the same like any other position and so far I’m happy with this group of players because many are Sabahans…without local players who play with heart, it will be difficult,” he said. The Sabah FA is set to finalise the squad on January 20.

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