| Fadhil Yunus |
DPMM FC will not entertain the idea that the powers of reigning champions Albirex Niigata (S) are slowly waning in the wake of a shock 1-0 loss to Geylang International FC ahead of their AIA Singapore Premier League clash at the Jurong East Stadium in Singapore tonight.
The defeat ended their 50-game unbeaten run in all domestic competitions but DPMM FC head coach Adrian Pennock has no doubts that the White Swans remain a force in the league.
The setback may raise thoughts that this season could see a drop in the Japanese side’s incredibly high levels but it certainly has not infiltrated Pennock’s line of thinking.
“We got to turn up because Albirex Niigata (S) are still a very good side. People say that they are not the same as last season but they are a very good side. I don’t care what anybody says,” said Pennock in a match preview at the Jerudong Mini Stadium recently.
The reigning holders should not be seen as an opponent in a mini crisis.
“If you look at the game against Geylang when they lost 1-0, Albirex should have won four or five. They hit the post three or four times, they had one-on-ones and Geylang defended very well. Albirex conceded late on but I thought they played very well,” said Pennock.
“Because they just lost 1-0 and it was their first loss in 50 games, people think that they are a bad side. They are a very good side.
“They played some very good football against Geylang and it will be a very tough game for us,” he said.
“But we are full of confidence at the moment with two wins out of two. We had two clean sheets. There is a good atmosphere around the place but we know it is going to be a very difficult game for us,” said the former Gillingham head coach.
Albirex Niigata (S) have been conditioned with high energy and tireless running over the years and these qualities have proven an obstacle for the rest of the league to counter.
But Pennock believes his charges have been equipped on countering their qualities which for so long have been key ingredients to their period of dominance.
The Gegar Gegar men have focussed primarily on optimising their level of fitness during pre-season training in an effort to be fitter and stronger.
“Hopefully we’ve conquered that anyway because if you look at the games that we’ve played, we always finished very strong. We scored two late goals, obviously on Saturday (against Geylang) and that’s due to fitness.
“We’ve been working very hard on our fitness levels in pre-season. It showed not just for this game but for the rest of the season. We will be fitter and stronger than we ever had been.
“Albirex have always been a very fit side which is why we’ve got to match them. If we can be above Albirex at the end of the season, then we will have a very good season.”
Asked about the threat that he may anticipate from the White Swans bandwagon, he replied, “As a team collectively, they are a very good footballing side. They also have very good individuals who can change the game in a second.”
He said, “If we turn up and give a good performance, then we will have a good chance to win the game.”
DPMM FC fullback Najib Tarif will have his fitness assessed today after an unfortunate fall during the Geylang match while Shah Razen Said sat out on a recent training session as a precaution due to a groin concern.
The Brunei-based outfit can go nine points clear from Albirex if they seal all three points.