THE Crocs have taken one step forward but two steps backwards after three games, leaving fans to wonder whether this is just a temporary slip or an ominous sign of more disappointments to come. The home side defeated Kuala Lumpur by two goals in the curtain raiser at home on Jan 10 for a superb start to their 2012 campaign.
Post-match optimism was high that this could well be the best team ever assembled in a long while to help Sarawak justify their promotion to the Super League – and perhaps also win some silverware after languishing in obscurity for more than a decade. It certainly looked that way with FAS officials patting each other on the back in the afterglow of a famously good start to the new season, and success-hungry fans daring to dream of a plausible return to the glory days of Ngap Sayot and the scintillating 1990’s.
But the gloss of that win over KL has faded somewhat after the Crocs stumbled in their two subsequent games, losing 2-1 away to Sabah on Jan 14 and 1-0 to Terengganu at home on Jan 17. The narrow margins of defeat suggest the outcomes were touch-and-go, and on a different day, might have favoured the Crocs.
Sarawak would have gone top with nine points – two more than the current leader T-Team – had they kept a clean sheet from three games. Three out of three would have been perfect but in the absence of lethal firepower upfront, that might be pushing it a bit. Had the Crocs drawn in their last two games, they would have been in 6th spot on five points behind T-Team (7 pts), Kelantan (7 pts), Terengganu (6 pts), Perak (6 pts) and Felda (6 pts) but ahead of Negeri Sembilan (4 pts).
Although Kelantan are sharing points with T-Team, the Red Warriors are 6-5 behind on goal difference. Sarawak lost the Borneo derby and to the Turtles by a solitary goal – a close result that could have gone either way and has left the Crocs to rue their missed chances. But whether you lose by one goal or 10 goals is immaterial. The bottomline is that you still lose.
Nothing can change that. It’s still three points to the winner and zero for the loser. The saying that “a miss is as good as a mile” may sound banal but it’s, nonetheless, hard to fault. Two losses in three matches are anything but inspirational if not demoralising and deflating. But for the Crocs, now is no time to mope over their setbacks.
They should put the defeats behind them and move forward. It’s pointless crying over spilt milk. Hence, it’s good to know that despite the disappointment over their back-to-back defeats, the Crocs have vowed to pick themselves up and soldier on. Indeed, nothing less is expected of them. After all, it’s still early days. The team must now muster all their strength and energy to even things up in their upcoming ties.
While Sarawak may not lack the ability to create scoring chances, converting them into goals is not their forte. A consistently misfiring frontline is the team’s Achilles heel. Even head coach and team manager Robert Alberts admitted as much when he said Sarawak are in dire need of an effective striker to make the chances in front of goal count.
“We really need an experienced attacker. We also need the services of an experienced foreign import to improve our attacking quality,” he said. This glaring flaw is not lost on the team management which is now trying to plug the weak link by inviting a Croatian striker, Vedran Muratovic, for trials.
The plan is to get the foreign import on board for the Crocs’ next game against Negeri Sembilan on Jan 28. How fast this can materialise will depend on how soon the formalities can be put in place, not forgetting, of course, the state of the FAS’ coffers. Still, there is no harm looking into all the options.
It will, at least, go somewhere to solving the Crocs’ perennial problem of being hamstrung by a toothless strike force. Football is all about scoring goals and to do that, good strikers are essential. In this context, securing the services of Muratovic – if he were as good as made out to be – would be a boon for the team.
As one seasoned football fan observed: “They need a striker badly. Many chances but no goals, how to win?” The upcoming games are no picnics to be sure. The Crocs will next against Negeri Sembilan at home on Jan 28 and away to Perak on Feb 7.
The home side will have everything to play for in the weeks ahead. They cannot afford to slip further if they want a decent finish in the top-flight League. We wish team the best of luck.