Wanted: consistent Cheetahs
Hougang coach Amin Nasir urges players to focus as he looks to push up the standings
HOUGANG UNITED v TANJONG PAGAR UNITED
(Tonight, 7.30pm, Hougang Stadium)
If they had backed up their stunning wins over Albirex Niigata and Tampines Rovers against teams they should have beaten, then Hougang United could well have been surprise contenders for the Great Eastern- Yeo's S.League title this season.
However, the wins over Albirex (3-1) and defending champions Tampines (4-2) were negated after they dropped 10 points in four games.
In three of those matches - 2-2 draws with Woodlands Wellington and Home United and a 3-2 loss to Geylang International - they let the points slip away despite taking the lead.
And then there was the shock 3-0 loss to the Courts Young Lions.
So, instead of sitting just behind leaders Brunei DPMM FC, Hougang are sixth in the 12-team standings, trying to hang on and finish in the top half of the table for the first time in their history.
They entertain struggling Tanjong Pagar United tonight and it's anyone's guess which Hougang team will turn up.
Coach Amin Nasir believes complacency is to blame for their Jekyll and Hyde performances.
"We were definitely up for the big matches this season, but the results are there for all to see, we were complacent against teams we should have beaten on paper," the 45-year-old told The New Paper yesterday.
"The inconsistency is worrying and my message to the boys at the halfway mark of the season was very clear - we have to focus on the entire game, regardless of who we are playing.
"If we want to finish in the top six, we have to collect more points. Any slip-ups will be costly."
However, the unfashionable north-eastern club have shown improvement.
They have scored five more goals and collected three more points than at the same stage last season.
But the Cheetahs have also conceded 22 goals, three more than last term, and have yet to keep a clean sheet.
Amin refused to blame anyone though, including his foreign players.
Nine-goal striker Geison Moura has been doing well, along with strike partner Diego Gama, but Croatian centre backs Igor Cerina and Durica Zuparic haven't quite lived up to expectations.
Moura said: "Definitely, we have to defend better, but it's not just about the defenders. Diego (Gama), myself, the midfielders, we have to start defending better from the front.
"It was good how we kept going to get a last-minute equaliser at Woodlands last week, and we have to build on that to get three points against Tanjong Pagar."
The Jaguars have had a poor season, recording just two wins, both against bottom sides Young Lions and Harimau Muda B.
They are still missing key players such as Anthony Aymard, Masrezwan Masturi and Sazali Salleh, all out injured.
The visitors will pay particular attention to Moura, as the 27-year-old Brazilian's goals have been instrumental for Hougang's improved displays this year.
It was his 87th-minute winner that downed Tanjong Pagar in February.
Moura, who also netted winning goals against Albirex and Balestier Khalsa, said: "I'm not playing for myself but I'm happy to score more and help the team get more points.
"With the exception of the Young Lions game which we lost comprehensively, the other three defeats were because of individual lapses in concentration which we will learn from.
"We won't take Tanjong Pagar lightly and we've got to be as aggressive against them as we have been against the top teams."