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Friday, August 03, 2001

M-League - Crunch time for Brunei

By Benny Ang

It's crunch time for Brunei as they fight to hold on to third spot in Premier Two tonight away to NS Chempaka in Negri Sembilan, knowing full well that a defeat would see their opponents take over third place.

With just the top three teams gaining automatic promotion to Premier One after this season, Brunei are holding on for dear life after just two draws and a loss in their last three matches.

Two of the draws were in away matches while the loss was a devastating home loss to Sabah on Monday night.

Coach Mick Jones knows that a victory tonight would at least give them some breathing space over NS Chempaka who have been pushing the Wasps hard for that final promotion spot.

"I said before the Sabah game that all the games are important. And I think I have been proven right. It's another six-pointer and after this there will be another one. It's really crunch time for us now," said Jones.

The players took 45 minutes to wake up against Sabah but Jones is confident that his players have learnt a vital lesson from that disappointing loss.

"The players looked scared for some reason in our biggest game of the season and I don't really know why. But I am sure that they would have learnt their lesson by now. It's going to be tough tonight but matches like these can establish their reputation," added Jones.

What is even more amazing is that despite walking the yellow card tight-rope for the last three matches, Jones has no suspensions to deal with although there are several players who are battling poor form at the moment.

The Brunei coach has made it his policy not to criticise players in public but the substitution of Saiful Rizal at half-time for Shahrol Rizal was very clear that he was unhappy with Saiful's display.

The goalkeeping debate still rages on with both Alizanda Sitom and Wardun Yussof unable to impress when given their chance although Jones did give Alizanda some leeway by pushing the blame on Monday's defeat to the defenders.

"To be fair, they were his mistakes but he was under unbelievable pressure. He should never have been subjected to such a barrage of pressure from the Sabah players and some of the defenders have to step up and take responsibility for their actions," added Jones.

It is unsure who Jones will pick to start between the posts tonight but with such a crucial game at hand, he will certainly be praying for one of them to come good soon.

Source: Borneo Bulletin

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