With only four more games to go, the win against the Courts Young Lions saw Tampines Rovers go eight points clear of second-placed Albirex Niigata (S) and although the White Swans have a game in hand, the title looks certain to be staying at Clementi Stadium.
But coach Tay Peng Kee is a worried man in the lead-up to the final few matches, as his key man in midfield might be ruled out for two of their last four games.
“I am not worried about Mustafic’s suspension for the next game, but more [about] the injury to his groin. Suspension might not be a bad thing as he will [only] miss the game against Gombak United this Saturday, but with this injury he might probably be out for at least two weeks.”
Despite this dampener, the mood in the Stags dressing room is at an all-time high this season as the players remain focused on defending their S.League title.
“Generally we are in good spirit, and the boys are full of confidence. You can see now that there is not so much quarreling, but more encouragement on the field. That is the difference now,” Tay observed.
However, he is less than happy with the fixture congestion in the league schedule.
“Playing again on Saturday after two days of rest, it will actually tell us the whole true story [ regarding the level of fitness]. They are playing four games in 11 days - to me, that is nonsense and I have to say that out,” Tay commented disgruntledly.
For Young Lions coach Robin Chitrakar, it was a case of his players being inexperienced and not as clinical in front of goal as compared to their opponents.
“We tried our best, and it’s not that we just sat back not wanting to create chances [but] when they did come our way, we did not take it, whereas Tampines is an experienced side and as you can see, Duric took all the chances presented to him. I think he had three shots on target, and he scored two of those.”
Chitrakar also conceded that his side’s defence did not hold up well, compounding their inability to finish upfront.
“If we concede any goal, [the] defending should be better. The third goal from long range took a slight deflection, and it definitely took Neezam Aziz off balance.”
The former Singapore international will also head into the rest of the club’s remaining fixtures without three of his regular players, who are due to enlist for National Service.
“We have three players out due to National Service and today Syazwan Buhari [goalkeeper] was out due to sickness, and the new boys that have just come in need time to settle in. For example, Emmeric Ong has been out for quite a while, and to come back and play is not easy,” Chitrakar pointed out.