Singapore Football

Tokic is Kristic's new strike partnerr

New signing seen as the right foil for star striker Kristic

FACTFILE

Name: Niko Tokic


Born: July 7, 1988 (Age: 28)


Place of Birth: Zagreb, Croatia

Nationality: Croatian

Position: Striker

Teams played for: FK Siauliai (in Lithuania, 62 app 26 goals); Pegasus FC (in Hong Kong, 6 app 2 goals); Hrvatski Dragovoljac (in Croatia, 21 app 6 goals)

TNP PHOTO: PHYLLICIA WANG

They crashed out of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup in the group stages and are languishing in eighth spot in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, scoring a league-worst seven goals in 12 games.

Balestier Khalsa have been a far cry from the side that finished an impressive fourth in the S.League last season.

The prolonged absence of Croatian hitman, Robert Pericic, due to recurring knee problems and the dip in form of compatriot Miroslav Kristic have been cited as key reasons for the Tigers' malaise.

Coach Marko Kraljevic has made a big move in a bid to reverse his club's fortunes, releasing Pericic and signing another Croat in the form of 28-year-old Niko Tokic during the current transfer window.

Tokic (right) was signed from Croatian second-tier outfit Hrvatski Dragovoljac.

The towering 1.86m striker has also plied his trade in Hong Kong and Lithuania with Pegasus FC and FK Siauliai respectively, and Kraljevic is expecting Tokic to provide the ammunition and killer-touch which they have been sorely lacking.

Speaking to The New Paper before the team's training session at the Toa Payoh Stadium on Tuesday, the 51-year-old coach said: "We have been struggling for goals this season, we have managed to score only seven.

"We need someone who can score goals and Niko can do that for us. He is confident, good in the air and comfortable with both feet so, hopefully, his signing can get us back to form."

Balestier's remarkable campaign last year was propelled by the lethal strike partnership of Pericic and Kristic, with the duo combining for 33 goals in all competitions.

But, with Pericic missing the entire first half of the season, the bulk of the scoring responsibility fell on Kristic's shoulders and the 26-year-old has struggled to deliver, scoring only twice in the league after enduring an 11-match goal drought.

Kraljevic believes Tokic's presence will help alleviate some of the pressure on his star man.

"Miro is more comfortable playing off the main striker so, hopefully, playing with Niko will help him get back to his rhythm and score again like last season," he said.

TOKIC'S ADAPTING

Tokic admitted he was still acclimatising to the Singapore lifestyle but the striker, who landed here on May 30, has found it easier to adjust thanks to the help of his teammates, coaches and backroom staff.

"Singapore is a nice country, it is a bit hot compared to Croatia, but I am adapting," he said.

I live in Miro's apartment and he, coach Marko and the others have helped me a lot, so it has been easier for me."

Tokic insisted the expectations of him and the acclimatisation period will not hinder his quest to get Balestier back on track.

"Pressure is there every game but, even if I don't score all the time, I can still contribute in other areas.

"Everyone is working hard to get the team back to the same form as last year and I want to do my part to help.

"In my time here, I hope that I can show the fans my qualities and I want them to see a player who is hardworking and someone who always gives a 110 per cent, no matter what the result is."

s.leagueBalestier KhalsacoachMarko KraljevicNIKO TOKICstriker