Stewart hails 'great' season for Balestier despite Singapore Cup exit

The Australian coach is pleased with his team's campaign having won the League Cup and secured a top-six finish, while Home United coach Lee Lim Saeng says the final won't be easy
He had just seen his Balestier Khalsa side get eliminated from the Singapore Cup, but one wouldn't have known it from Darrent Stewart's demeanour after the game.

Firdaus Idros scored the only goal in their second-leg, semi-final tie to see Home United win 1-0 on Monday night and 2-0 on aggregate, but the Australian was adamant that the loss would not overshadow a superb year for the Tigers.

"Of course I'm a little bit disappointed that we didn’t progress, but not with the way we went out," Stewart said.

"It was stupendous the way they (the players) were [playing] with 10 men, absolutely a credit to themselves and the club."

That they had to play with one less player after Ruhaizad Ismail was dismissed for a seemingly harsh second yellow in the 34th minute did not dampen Balestier's spirit, as they fought manfully to the last whistle.

"Definitely, mate, even my chairman agrees - he’s already told them (the players) himself - and I told them before he did, that they all should keep their heads up [because] we’ve had a good year and we are not about to end it on a bad note because of that (the loss)," Stewart responded when asked whether he would consider the season a successful one.

"That’s a gutsy team performance with 10 men against a team, I don’t know what their budget is, but it’s more than we’ve got. So yeah, it's been a great year [for us]."

His opposite number, Lee Lim Saeng, now has the chance to win his second Singapore Cup with the Protectors when they face Tanjong Pagar United in the final.

After thanking his players for their effort, he admitted the Jaguars will not be easy opponents, especially given that the key duo of Masrezwan Masturi and Juma'at Jantan will be suspended.

"I need to think about the strategy for the next game, and I am sorry I have no idea [about it] at the moment!" the Korean said with a half-smile.

"Tanjong Pagar is a good side and I don't want to be overconfident myself. We will just prepare for the next game [as usual]. but I will try my best with the players [to win]."

Balestier already have a trophy themselves in the form of the League Cup, of course, and Stewart is targeting a positive end to their campaign

"Hopefully we can finish it off with third place in the Cup and a decent place in the league, with a few of the boys getting back from injuries," he concluded.