|FROM HOUGANG STADIUM
By Eddie Ridzwan
Balestier Khalsa bounced back from a 4-0 thrashing by Home United with a 3-1 victory against Hougang United on Tuesday night, as two goals from Park Kang Jin and one from Obadin Aikhena made sure of an away success.
Johana Johari’s debut as Hougang's interim coach did not go as planned and the Singaporean was left disappointed with himself as he was "unable to reward the club for their belief".
“I would say that we lost it in midfield - we lost the game and the ball in midfield," he reflected, fully aware of his team's weaknesses.
"We also conceded silly mistakes and fouls right outside the penalty box. We did not do the right thing, which was to close down players during set pieces and that eventually resulted to their two goals [in the second half]."
Johana had a different game plan in the second half and although the tactics didn't work out too well on the pitch, he refused to point fingers.
“I figured that we were not authoritative enough in midfield so at half-time, I told the boys to play wide and thread diagonal balls and to not play by the middle," he revealed.
“I cannot blame the players as they are still trying to adjust and as you know, we play Tampines [Rovers] in three days' time [and] I do not know why the schedule is so tight, but it will definitely cost us.
“I brought Liam [Shotton] on and it gave us an advantage in attack due to his height. He has been scoring goals - against LionsXII [and] Johor FC - and today he proved himself by scoring yet again.
“Our foreign players are not clicking well [but] it takes some time for them to adjust and get involved. We have seen improvement in Jerome [Baker] and supplemented with Robert [Eziakor] and [Mamadou] Diallo, it will definitely benefit us.
“We don’t really have quality local players, so we are dependent on the foreigners to lift up the game.”
Shotton, who scored the consolation, also spoke briefly about his cameo appearance.
“I was naturally disappointed that I wasn’t going to start, but it is the coach’s decision and I respect that,” the Englishman said.
“Obviously it felt good [to come off the bench and score and] to help the team. I played probably 10 to 15 minutes and it felt good."
Speaking to the media on behalf of coach Darren Stewart, Balestier assistant coach Kevin Wee seemed delighted with the win.
“Full credit to the boys for this victory [and] coming back from a heavy defeat [against Home] last week and today we played without two key defenders. who were unavailable for selection," Wee praised.
Wee chose not to talk about failing to keep a clean sheet, claiming that there was "no point" as it had already happened, and instead lavished further praise on his players, in particular striker Jung Hee Bong.
“Jung was brilliant today; he was always winning the aerial battles and I should say that we can expect more to come from him," he asserted.
“I can’t single out a department that did well today as the whole team did so well, it is a collective effort.
“You can imagine the time and effort that the players have worked on set-pieces, given that we scored two from them today."
Hougang will next travel to Clementi to face Tampines Rovers, while Balestier will play Brunei DPMM at Jalan Besar.