Thursday, March 29, 2012

Opponent Watch: Hougang United

Hougang United must surely be upset that they only left Clementi Stadium with a point after Benoît Croissant's last-throw-of-the-dice equalizer for Tampines last week. The frustrated Cheetahs, like the Rams, will be looking to get their season back on track. The Cheetahs have won 2, drawn 2 and lost 2 matches out of six games so far, while Woodlands is close behind at 2 wins, 1 draw and 3 losses.

Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In an encounter billed as "The Noisiest Game of the S.League", both sets of fans will be raring to go against each other (in the form of chanting and singing, of course) in the terraces. Hougang will be traveling up north with the resolute Hougang Hools and we are sure that it will be a smashing encounter. The Hools have been backing the Cheetahs since early 2011 and their captivating BPL-styled songs and spellbinding chants will definitely be a force to be reckoned with.

Both teams enter this fixture with a draw in their last game, and both the Rams and the Cheetahs will be looking for a win at the Woodlands Stadium to savour victory once again. It is interesting to note that both teams had incidentally picked up their last win over the same team, Geylang United.

The Black Sheep will aim to turn Woodlands Stadium into a sea of yellow.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Hougang Hools will be looking to be in full voice at Woodlands Stadium as well.
Photo Credit: FAS

Hougang have scored seven goals so far, with three of these goals coming from the formidable Jordan Webb. The Canadian winger, who is often associated to Brazilian superstar Neymar due to their resemblance, is one of the most skillful and fastest players the league has seen. However, the Hougang crowd favourite seems to have trouble finding the back of the net of late after displaying a great run of form by scoring consecutively in the first three games of the season. Despite this, Jordan has always been a thorn in the opposition and our defence will need to snuff out this dangerman if we want to keep a clean sheet for this game.

Webb in action against Tanjong Pagar in Hougang's season opener.
Photo Credit: FAS

If he does recover in time for this game, Duncan Elias will face his former Hougang colleague, Webb, in an exciting showdown along our left flank. Otherwise, coach Salim would probably call the impressive Edward Tan to deputize if Duncan is still not fit for this smasher.

If Edward does make his home debut for the Rams, the Cheetahs will be cautious in not giving away any free kicks near to their penalty box as the left back showed how clinical he can be with his left foot last week against Gombak.

Duncan will hope to recover in time to face his former Cheetah colleagues.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Mahmadou Diallo also scored his first goal of the 2012 campaign with a well taken free kick against Tampines last week and we will depend on the defensive pair of "Captain Fantastic" Daniel Hammond and "Fari" Fabien Lewis to keep him out of the game. Of course, Hougang have much depth in their squad and Cheetahs coach, Nenad Becina, could rely on Sobrie Mazelan to pull the trigger on the Rams should Diallo fail to score.

Armanizam is always "on the ball".
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Hougang's industrious midfield is also one of the reasons for the team's effectiveness in playing as a tight unit, and it will be a real cracker between Hougang's Croatian midfielder Ante Barac and our very own Armanizam Dolah. The no-nonsense 24 year old central midfielder will form the crux of our midfield and his simple, effective passing game should feed the flanks with plenty of ammunition. His telepathic understanding with the intrepid Shamsurin Abdul Rahman in the middle of the park will also be crucial in our bid to retain possession in a potentially scrappy game.

Armanizam was rested for the Gombak game last week and he will be raring to go in front of the Woodlands home crowd. Hougang's Nurhil Jasni will also be an exciting player to look out for and midfield general Armanizam will have to command the midfield well enough to neutralise the threat from these 2 players.

It should be a tight battle in midfield and Sham's presence will be integral.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In the back, the performance of Stanislav Vidakovic has been encouraging for the Cheetahs and the 26 year old Croat, who played in the Albanian Super Liga last season, has already scored two goals this season, both of them headers from dead ball situations.

Nonetheless, the Hougang defence have shown that they can be suspect to fast attacking players and that is something that our Aussie midfielder Hussein Akil can exploit. Also, the expected return of the hardworking Guntur Djafril to the squad, after being rested against Gombak last week, will lend some pizazz to the Rams attack, complimented by the dauntless Goh Swee Swee, who will be looking to add more goals to his portfolio after that stunning curler against Geylang. As usual, our attack will be spearheaded by the talented Moon Soon-Ho, who is the Rams' top scorer with 2 goals so far.

Fari and Capt. Daniel must deal with the aerial threat of Hougang's Vidakovic.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Geylang match back in late February would be a good indication of how adept our boys can be at attacking. Hussein was fastest to react to a loose ball to poke home the opener. Moon also showcased his mazy dribbling skills after he latched on to a Hammond punt late in the game to score a beauty from a position near to where Swee Swee fired home the second goal. We know that the Rams can beat anyone if they play as a team. We believe in our players and most importantly, we want them to believe in themselves. Once we start playing with confidence, the goals will come naturally for us.

The adroit Hussein Akil will be instrumental in facilitating the Rams' attack.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Rams will have to be wary of giving away needless free kick or corners. The Cheetahs have scored both their last 2 goals from dead-balls and they have displayed how deadly they can be in these situations.

S.League Pundit Dave Roberts has tipped a close encounter for this game but he feels that the Rams should edge out the Cheetahs based on his gut feel.We trust that this will be a really exciting game of football. Come dressed in yellow, and sing along with the Black Sheep!

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

Match Information
Date: Friday, 30th March, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Woodlands Stadium
Tickets: $5.00 (Adult), $ 1.00 (Student)

For the latest matchday info and other updates, you are encouraged to follow the Black Sheep on our Facebook page.

Keep the yellow flag flying high!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Reaction: Gombak United vs Woodlands Wellington

It is always never easy to travel west to play Gombak in Jurong West, especially when this match would be their first game on home soil in front of their fans. While a win against Gombak would have significantly boosted our positioning in the league table, clear-cut opportunities proved hard to come by for our forwards due to the stifled midfield area.

The Yellow Army goes to Jurong West.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Rams' tactics were somewhat similar to the one utilised against Balestier, and that was to absorb the pressure from Gombak and attack on the counter. A thigh injury to Duncan Elias meant that Vincent Lee had to be deployed in the left back position, while the vastly experienced Farizal Basri and the determined Han Yiguang started in place of Armanizam Dolah and Guntur Djafril, both of whom were rested on the bench for this game, probably in anticipation for the Hougang encounter that follows this match.

Gombak substitute Hafiz Rahim went closest to breaking the deadlock at the 90th minute mark but his snapshot rocked the Woodlands crossbar, while the rampant Gombak attack in the final few minutes gave a scare to the Rams but the defence was equal to the task of keeping the Bulls out to hang on for a goalless draw.

Vincent Lee started in left back and had a tough battle against Gombak's Samuel Benjamin.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In a game where the Rams had limited chances moving forward, our flying Korean Moon Soon-Ho had a good chance to score when he latched on to a great through ball by Hussein Akil but Gombak custodian Zaiful Nizam closed him down before he could shoot. Goh Swee Swee also had a good chance on goal in the 57th minute but he could not keep his rising shot from going over the bar.

Hussein Akil was positioned deeper in midfield than he usually was and balls were played forward either though small punts or to the sides for our wingbacks to flank the opposition.

The introduction of wingback Edward Tan, who came on for Vincent Lee in the 66th minute, was one of the highlights of the match. The left back was a joy to watch and he almost gave us the lead not once, but twice, from two free kicks in almost the same spot in the dying minutes of the match.

Edward Tan coming on for Vincent Lee in the 66th minute.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Although it is still too early to draw comparisons of his cultured left foot with the likes of the legendary Lee Man Hon, who played for the Singapore Lions back in the Malaysia League in the 90s, or more recently, LionsXII left back Saiful Esah, the 27 year old sure makes one wonder why his former club, Tampines Rovers, decided to release him from their squad for the current season. This gem of a player would add a reasonable amount of depth to our squad, especially when the reliable Duncan Elias may be doubtful for the next couple of games.

The performance of the dependable Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, who seems to have regained his confidence in between the sticks, and the alert Daniel Hammond and imposing Fabien "Fari" Lewis also helped to ensure that we would leave Jurong West with a draw to arrest our slump down the table from the losses in our last three matches, despite the Gombak onslaught in the final 20 minutes.  Many in the stands were worried that we would be hit by a sucker punch from Gombak but the defence did just enough to keep the Bulls' attack at bay.

Edward Tan's promising free kick.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In the 78th minute, tempers flared when Gombak's centreback - Tunisian-Singaporean Walid Lounis - got into a heated exchange of words with the Woodlands officials when he attempted to retrieve a loose ball near to the Rams' bench. It seemed that Lounis had used vulgarities on Woodlands' team manager, Matthew Tay, sparking off a reaction from the officials. On the flip side, Lounis claims that it was the Woodlands bench who cast the first rock on him. We leave it to the reader to decide who was the instigator on this matter, but from various sources, we understand that Lounis doesn't exactly have a bleach-clean mouth wheneevr he steps onto the pitch. Besides, it doesn't make any sense for our bench to start going all Vinnie Jones on Lounis when it was still a goalless stalemate at that point in time.

Having said that, we do understand that players may be caught in the heat of the moment and utter something that they would regret later. We definitely do not condone such language on the field and hope to see much less of such cases in the league.

Assistant Gaffer Clement Teo reacting to the Lounis incident.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

This match also witnessed one of the lighter moments of the S.League when referee W Ravisanthiran had to stop play to allow the Jurong West groundsmen to enter the pitch to repair a patch of grass which was dislodged during the first half. Well, at least we don't have floodlights going off in the middle of the game. Not in this season, anyway.

Groundsmen tending to the dislodged turf.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

After the results from the week's round of matches, the Rams are now placed in 9th position and we remain one point ahead of the Bulls. It is also good to see that the team had more or less recovered from the flu bug that had bugged (forgive the pun) most of our players last week.

Traveling Black Sheep ensuring that their voices are being heard by the Rams on the pitch.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

We now look forward to the next encounter, when our Rams finally travel home to Woodlands Stadium to play Hougang united in only their second official home game of the season, the other being a 3 - 1 win over Geylang in February.

In an encounter billed as the "noisiest game in the S.League", the match will see the Black Sheep and the Hougang Hools attempting to outsing and outchant each other. It will definitely be an exciting encounter.

Look out for our opponent watch on Hougang - coming soon to a computer / laptop / mobile device screen near you!

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

Wherever your heart lies, we are still friends after 90 minutes (± extra time lah)
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Opponent Watch: Gombak United

Gombak United head into this next fixture on the back of an assuring 3 - 0 thumping of Tanjong Pagar and they must surely be brimming with confidence. On the flip side, our Rams have not won in 3 matches since our convincing display against Geylang United back in February. March has not been good for us so far and the boys will have to lick their wounds, remain positive and bounce back from this slump.

Train hard, fight easy.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Following the Balestier encounter last weekend, our Rams have slipped down to eight place and only one point separates us from Gombak, who lie one spot below us in ninth position. Having only played four matches so far, Gombak have a game in hand and we know they will definitely be going all out for a win to leapfrog past Woodlands.

The trip west to Jurong will also see former Bulls midfielder Aloysius Yap going up against his former team. While he is likely to start on the bench, the 24 year old will probably be deployed in the last third of the game to spice up the attack as he has convincingly done so in the last 2 matches against Tampines and Balestier. In his two seasons for Gombak, Aloy has made a total of 13 appearances for the Bulls, with 7 of them as a substitute and Bulls fans will definitely remember him for his spirited runs and selfless passing.

The Gombak faithful will certainly remember the dependable Aloysius.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Gombak will be fresh for this encounter, having received a bye for week 5. The Bulls will be relying on the on-form Mustaqim Manzur, who has scored in the last three Gombak fixtures. The 30 year old former international is known for his prowess down the right flank so it will be up to vice-captain Duncan Elias to snuff out Mustaqim's surging runs. Mustaqim has also shown that he is capable of cutting into the middle of the park to provide through balls for his attacking colleagues.

Our midfield will need to neutralize this eminent danger, something which will lie squarely on the shoulders of Armanizam Dolah and Shamsurin Abdul Rahman. It will be an interesting tussle in the middle of the pitch between Armanizam and former Burnley youngster Christopher Anderson, who has shown commendable control of the Bulls midfield so far. Both players will be attempting to win the midfield battle for their respective teams and it will certainly be exciting to watch.

Hussein will fancy his chances against Gombak.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Out in the front, it will also be a real feud between Gombak's rocksteady Aikhena Obadin against the skill of Moon Soon-Ho and the speed and guile of Hussein Akil. Balestier's Park Kang Jin has shown that Gombak's defence can be suspect when faced with speedy forwards as he fired home Balestier's goal against the Bulls. This is something the speedy Akil can definitely exploit.

United we stand, divided we fall!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Woodlands has spent almost the greater part of March on the road, with the exception of the upcoming home game against Hougang on 30th March. The Rams has been to three different stadiums so far, with Jurong West stadium on the cards next, and they will probably be dressed in blue once again for this encounter.

Based on our current form, we would once again be billed as the underdogs for the Gombak encounter. All the better, we say. An upset is always more gratifying than winning a match which we have been widely tipped to win anyway. So have you got your confetti ready for this next one?

Come On You Rams! Never Surrender!

Match Information
Date: Saturday, 24th March, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Jurong West Stadium
Tickets: $5.00 (Adult), $ 1.00 (Student)

For the latest matchday info and other updates, you are encouraged to follow the Black Sheep on our Facebook page.

Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Reaction:Balestier Khalsa vs Woodlands Wellington

"50 Woodlands Wellington fans out-sing 1850 Balestier Khalsa home fans as the Rams fell valiantly in the Tigers' den." In an ideal world, this would be the headline running across the mainstream and alternative media covering the S.League match between Woodlands and Balestier last sunday. Instead, the headlines are marred by reports of Zulkiffli Hassim's dismissal after he hurled racist remarks towards our big man, Fabien Lewis. (This matter is currently being investigated by FAS. - Report)

The mainstream media may have their obligations to play down the various happenings on and off the pitch, but there was certainly more to it than the tepid, run of the mill match report by Quoting this report, there was certainly a passionate crowd in the stands that night. Unfortunately, it certainly wasn't the home crowd who made the most noise. The Balestier fans were mostly quiet throughout the entire match, save for Uncle Salleh's* passionate skeleton crew, while the Black Sheep sang away and decorated the stands with confetti, regardless of the result.

The Black Sheep having fun with Uncle Salleh.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

*A little history: Uncle Salleh has been a Balestier fan for the longest time. He is also a long-time bosom friend of our very own Uncle "Kambing Power" Hussain and a couple of the senior members of the Black Sheep. Hilarity ensued when both uncles met each other outside Toa Payoh stadium as the Black Sheep lined up with Uncle Salleh on the pretext of taking a photo, and tickling him from all sides thereafter. The sight of Uncle Salleh chuckling uncontrollably after meeting with his friends from Woodlands definitely showed that there was a genuinely friendly rivalry between the two sides.

Another BKFC fan who deserves special mention would be LATW member Elwin Loh who has been ever present during all BKFC matches, drumming away and cheering his team on. Real fans like these 2 gentlemen cheer and sing for their team all the time, whether the team is winning or losing. From our side of the stands, we could hear Elwin passionately drumming and singing "Siapa Bilang Singapura LionsXII" away. It was rather sad that the rest of the crowd failed to join in the revelry of Uncle Salleh's small but powerful crew.

Elwin (left) with Hussain (right). Fans of different clubs, but both Lions at heart.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

As I entered the gates of Toa Payoh stadium, I was greeted with a peculiar sight. There was a tentage erected on the right side of the gate and caterers were setting up a buffet line. According to the board placed in front of the tentage, the food was for "VVIP"s only. This tentage was to become the main draw of the match as I will explain in a few moments.

Tentage where the buffet line was placed. Photo was taken after the match.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

As the match progressed, the stands were filled mainly with the clapping, cheering and singing from the away stands. The home crowd was largely non-existent except for some intermittent vuvuzelas and the commendable Uncle Salleh and Elwin's dauntless efforts to drum up the home crowd with their tireless cheering.

With a largely uneventful first half, the score remained nil-nil at halftime. At the half time break, the emcee started blasting loud Bhangra music at a level which was enough to burst your eardrums if you stood directly in front of the speakers. Still, this did not deter a bunch of foreign fans who danced away in front of the grandstand, probably lost in the catchy beats of the music, much to the amusement of the away fans, most of who remain glued to their seats. There were also a number of fans who had also made their way to the "chow tentage" to have their food. Towards the end of the break, the group of Bhangra dancers started waddling towards the buffet line and proceeded to have their food as well.

Woodlands Fans enjoying themselves regardless of the result.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

As the second half went on, we were surprised to see an almost empty home stand. The crowd had mostly shifted to the buffet line, which presumably provided free food for the fans. It seemed that they were more interested in chomping away than the action on the field itself. This went on for a good 25 minutes before they shifted back to the stands.

Balestier piled on the pressure on Woodlands, which did well to soak it up and attack on the counter, but we did not take our chances well. In the 80th minute, our defence allowed Kim Min Ho too much space and the Korean made no mistake with his curling effort, which went in off the upright. Even custodian Ahmadulhaq, who had been doing so well up to this point and keeping out everything Balestier had thrown at him - including the kitchen sink, could not stop the effort from Kim. We had to close him down, but we didn't.

And then, it happened.

The large group of foreign fans, numbering about 20, started drumming and pranced towards the away stands with much swagger. There was much intent to taunt the opposing fans since their team had just scored. They inched towards the Woodlands fans, laughing, jeering and taunting in their native tongue and displaying rude gestures for all to see. The group was merely yards away from the Woodlands fans before they decided to turn back when they realised that these Woodlands fans were no pushovers - the Black Sheep were matching them voice for voice and singing to cheer out team on - not provoked one bit by their neanderthal-worthy actions . Most of the people in our group could not be bothered by these childish antics. Taunting Fail.

Fair-weather Fans - If you have the guts to taunt the opponent's fans,
you'd better be prepared to have your faces plastered all over the internet.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep) 

It has to be said that we understand the monkey antics of the squad were largely condemned by the Balestier faithful as well, and word on the ground was that Uncle Salleh and gang tried to stop the unruly group from advancing towards the opposing stand, but had failed due to the large size and stubborness of the group. 

Bryan, a die-hard Balestier fan who has been following the Tigers for the last 3 years, shares his thoughts about the Bhangra bunch above: "...Balestier can't do much about them because FTMS (one of Balestier's sponsors) asks them to come down to show their support. But honestly, they should be going to a (dance) club, not a stadium. Every home game, they come, they dance, they blow their horns, sing and dance to their own songs, which is not related to Balestier in any way. If only  they could at least cheer the same cheers along with us. That would do us a whole world of good. "

Sources also tell us that this bunch is actually a group of students from FTMS.

As the group retreated, I noticed a young Chinese bespectacled Balestier fan, dressed in a red Balestier home jersey, retreating in the midst of the "taunt squad". Probably unhappy that they failed to rile up the Woodlands fans, he mouthed a vulgarity and showed his middle finger to the Woodlands fans. I mean, come on, your team just scored. What was the purpose of doing that? Shame on you. How would you feel if your opposing fans did that to you if their team just scored?

Whoops...We're sorry for the mix-up!
We had wrongly identified bona-fide Balestier Khalsa fan Bryan Png (left in the photo below) previously as the rude local fan mentioned above. Bryan, who has stepped forward to inform us that he did not leave the home stands during the entire game, has been a BKFC fan for the past three years and is well known among the Balestier Khalsa and S.League fraternity. We do sincerely apologise for any inconvenience or distress that may have arose from this.

We have genuine respect for real Balestier fans such as (from left) Bryan,
Elwin, Uncle Salleh and Uncle Jamil, the father of Balestier player Ridwan Jamil.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Yes, we frown upon such antics. There was no need to taunt the opposing fans, really. If you want to, do it within the confines of your home stand. Leaving your area and advancing towards the away fans aggressively is both senseless, childish and uncouth.

We are lucky to have a safe and secure football environment here in Singapore. However, judging by their boorish antics, these buffoons could well be on their way to instigate crowd trouble in the S.League. What if the away crowd were a bunch of aggressive, unreasonable people? I cannot imagine what would have happened if that was the case.

Honestly, I feel gutted. Our genuine fans have done so much for the S.League. Now we have a bunch of marauding, fair-weather fans out to spoil the good name of Balestier Khalsa and the league itself. Balestier chairman S.Thavaneson has put in a lot of work for the club, it is just unfortunate that his efforts have also drawn in such a bunch of "glory hunting" fans. It would also be unfair for real fans of the club to be pulled down and associated with this bunch of barbarians. Free Food ≠ Real Fans. Real Fans Free Food.

It also gave me an uneasy feeling to see Zulkiffli Hassim clapping and smiling to the crowd after being sent off late in the game. It gave me the impression that he felt like a hero for mouthing a racist remark towards an opponent. Racism has no place in this game. Disappointing attitude coming from the player, especially when he obviously has bags of talent and a potential player for the national team.

Best moments for Woodlands

Yes, the result leaves us disappointed, especially when the team fought so hard on the field, but we can take heart from Ahmadulhaq Che Omar's valiant efforts in keeping the Tigers out repeatedly. The custodian was equal to most of Balestier's attacks, and it would be unfair to blame either goal on him as the defence went asleep on both occasions. He has certainly picked himself up from the nightmarish result against Tampines and we would hope to see him return to his best in the matches to come.

James and his home-made "Kambing Power" scarf.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Looking Ahead

Our next encounter would be against Gombak United at the Jurong West Stadium on 24th March (Saturday), who must be encouraged by their 3 - 0 victory over Tanjong Pagar, and having sufficient rest for 2 weeks before their next match against us.

Our boys will be looking to improve on their movement on the field, and not to play too deep into our own half. We did that against Balestier and the free space that the Tigers had caused us to concede. Our midfield, marshaled by Armanizam Dolah, needs to space out, stand firm and control the game.

4 - 0 down? 2 - 0 down? We will never surrender!
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

The team was down with the flu bug mid-week and some of our players may not have fully recovered from their illness prior to the Balestier match. Nonetheless, we hope that they will be fighting fit this coming Saturday.

As for the Black Sheep, we will continue the cheering, singing and chanting all the way, even if we are down, even if the odds are stacked against us. Ahmadulhaq puts it squarely for us: "We may be in the lower half of the sleague table, but our fans are without a doubt the Best in the Sleague! People of all ages, families, even the MP! With all the chantings, songs, confetti....etc, even when the result is against us... Take a bow, U guys R the best!!!!"

Onward to Jurong West! Never Surrender!

(Our opponent watch on Gombak United will be up soon. Do watch out for it.)
Superfan Faisal.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Opponent Watch: Balestier Khalsa

Rock solid. That would be a good word to describe our next opponent's - Balestier Khalsa - defence. Some would say that the best defense would be a good offense, but that is not the case for the Toa Payoh based outfit, who have scored much lesser goals than others but are perched prettily in second place behind league leaders Albirex Niigata (S).

Promotional banner for this Sunday's match at Toa Payoh
Photo Credit: Balestier Khalsa FC Website

The main reason for Balestier's dream start to the 2012 campaign must be attributed to their seemingly infallible defence, which has been stingy to opposing defences so far. Club captain and centre back Paul Cunningham has been outstanding for the Tigers so far and the 25 year old Kiwi has led Balestier to three clean sheets out of a possible four.

Since their goalless draw on opening day with Home United, Balestier has successfully scored in every game in the run up to our next fixture away at Toa Payoh on this coming Sunday. Although the Tigers have only managed to score one goal in each game, these solitary goals proved to be crucial as they propelled the Tigers to victories over Tampines Rovers and Hougang United.

Paul Cunningham has been flawless in defence for Balestier so far.
Photo Credit: Yeo's Great Eastern S-League

The only team which managed to put the ball into Balestier's net so far is Gombak United, in a tight game which saw the on-form Mustaqim Mansur scoring on 76 minutes to cancel out Balestier midfielder Park Kang-Jin's goal on 12 minutes in front of a large crowd of 2386 spectators at Toa Payoh two weeks ago. (Korean Park, like our very own Moon Soon-Ho, was part of the Super Reds team who played in the S-League between 2007 to 2009).

As such, Balestier's current record stands at 3 goals for and one goal against after four matches so far. In comparison, our Rams have scored one more at 4 goals for but we have also let in more at 6 goal against us. We have also lost 2 games already while Balestier still enjoy an unbeaten record up till today, allowing them to be honoured together with the other unbeaten teams in the league at this moment - Brunei DPMM FC, Home United and Harimau Muda.

After letting in a total of six goals in our last three matches, we will need to step up our game against the Tigers. It would be foolish to think that Balestier would play a defensive game based on the low number of goals they have scored so far. Our defenders will need to contain the Balestier attack, particularly the skillful Zulkiffli Hassim, who turned Hougang United defender and captain Lau Meng Meng inside out before scoring a scorcher, which was later named the Goal of the Week.

Daniel Hammond must rally the defence to perform better after last week's result at Tampines.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Apart from the need to win this fixture to get our season back on track after 2 consecutive losses, this game will be of much interest to watch due to the "homecoming" of  four Rams who were decked out in the red of Balestier's colours last season. The quartet of Ahmadulhaq Che Omar, K. Sathiaraj, Armanizam Dolah and Shamsurin Abdul Rahman will certainly be looking to do well against the Tigers on Sunday, and Goh Swee Swee will be looking forward to the Toa Payoh encounter as well, as the former Young Lion also played for the Tigers in 2010 before moving north to join Woodlands in 2011.

Armanizam Dolah (second from left) playing in the red of Balestier back in 2011.
Photo Credit: Lioneldude Photography

With so many former Tigers now playing for the Rams, it is set to be an electrifying affair. It will also be a reunion of sorts for gaffer Salim Moin (cue the "One Salim Moin" song) as he returns to central Singapore to face the club he managed last season. 

Former tiger Sathi will need to guard his flank well to ensure we have a chance against high-flying Balestier.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

If fervent home support is based on attendance alone, Balestier must then be one of the best supported clubs on the island. Getting a crowd of some 2,300 supporters for a home game is no mean feat. The Black Sheep's creative director, Hussain Razzak, who has been a Rams supporter for the past decade notes that the Balestier faithful will be a force to reckon with since they are currently on a good run.

Balestier fans during the Balestier - Gombak match.
The Black Sheep will be up against them this Sunday and we aim to be in full voice.
Photo Credit: Yeo's Great Eastern S-League

Let's face it. We will need a win in this fixture in order to regain our foothold and not slip further down the table. Our last two matches have seen us fall five notches from second to seventh place - if we have any intention of finishing the season in the top half of the table, we will need to start winning matches again.

Right now, there couldn't be a better scenario to think of than to face Balestier in our next fixture. The Tigers' defence have shown that they have been hard to break down as a unit, but this resolution has also been displayed by our defenders prior to the Tampines game. We need to find that confidence once again and go out with all guns blazing to win this game. Yes, it will be tough, but victory at Toa Payoh will see Woodlands leapfrogging past Balestier in the league standings. And this, I hope, will be the players' motivation to go out all focused and fired up for this match. Never Surrender!

Sparks will fly on Sunday. Will you be there to witness it?

Regardless of the size of Balestier's home crowd, we will match them voice for voice,
volume for volume. NEVER SURRENDER!
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Match Information
Date: Sunday, 18th March, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Toa Payoh Stadium
Tickets: $5.00 (Adult), $ 1.00 (Student)

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Monday, March 12, 2012

Reaction: Tampines Rovers vs Woodlands Wellington

When Aleksandar Đurić scored Tampines' first goal barely 30 seconds after kick-off, we knew that it was going to be a tough night for our boys. Duric went on to score another two goals to complete his hat trick and Mustafic Fahrudin headed another goal home to add misery to our night. The result pushes our Rams down in seventh placed behind Harimau Muda (who have only played 2 games so far) and it can't be said that the result was unfair.

Woodlands, on their part, did threaten to equalise in the 11th minute when Guntur Djafril got through on goal but his shot flashed past the goalpost in what must have been merely a few inches wide. Around this point in time, a pot-bellied and boisterous foreign "fan" also made his appearance in the away supporters' terrace, shouting at the players on the field, waddling around the same spot and flapping his arms, much to the amusement of the fans seated in that area. This lasted for a good while before he disappeared before half-time. He never reappeared after that.(Update on 13 March 2012: Turns out that this "fan" was Mark Roberts, the world's most prolific streaker and he was there with a TNP reporter. - report here)

Đurić scoring the first of his hat-trick.
Photo Credit: Justin Qian (FAS)

Tampines was already leading by three goals by the time the first half ended and it was always going to be an uphill task to overturn such a deficit. Try as they might, Woodlands did not really trouble the Tampines defence save for a few occasions where Tampines' Jufri Taha was exposed to the speed of Hussein Akil.

Moon Sun Ho nearly got a consolation goal for the Rams in the 76th minute when he was put through by Hussein Akil but his low shot was cheekily saved by Tampines custodian Sasa Dreven's shin in a most unorthodox manner.  

In the stands, it was business as usual for the Black Sheep as we sang throughout the match regardless of the scoreline. We hope that our fighting spirit in adversity would rub off on the players as we continued to clap and cheer even as Tampines scored their fourth goal. Nothing is going to break the "Kambing Power" spirit of the Woodlands supporters. Not even the dismal scoreline.

Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

At one point in time, we even found an innovative way to launch our now trademark confetti into the air by using our Woodlands Wellington flag as a launching pad. Also, by inspecting some of the photos a member took of the crowd, it seemed that S-League CEO Lim Chin was seated behind the Black Sheep all along.  

Best moments for Woodlands

Honestly, there were not many to choose from given the disappointing result, but Aloysius Yap, who had an impressive debut for the club with his hard running and glimpses of attacking flair against Tampines, deserves recognition for his performance. When it seemed like all hope was lost, the young midfielder definitely did not give up and continued running at the Stags. The depth he adds to our squad will only serve to make us better as a team.

Looking Ahead

For the Rams, we are now without a win in our last two Yeo's Great Eastern S-League matches since our last victory at home to Geylang United. This slump will certainly need to be arrested as soon as possible. The still unbeaten Balestier Khalsa (who sit prettily in second place) away on Sunday will be our chance to do so. It will be a reunion of sorts for gaffer Salim Moin and players K. Sathiaraj, Armanizam Dolah, Shamsurin Abdul Rahman and Ahmadulhaq Che Omar as they visit their former club in the formidable Toa Payoh stadium.

The Black Sheep after the Tampines match.
Does it look like we lost 4 - 0? We will never surrender!
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

We will need to keep our heads up and ensure that we keep on fighting no matter what - The ball is round and we have an equal chance to grab all three points as much as Balestier has.And yes, we will be bringing the confetti.

Onward to Toa Payoh! Never Surrender!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Opponent Watch: Tampines Rovers

A defeat on tuesday evening for Tampines Rovers in their AFC Cup Group F campaign means that both the Stags and the Rams enter our Friday night encounter looking to bounce back from respective losses to Kitchee (Hong Kong) and Albirex Niigata (S).

Our next opponent, Tampines Rovers, will try to bounce back from their defeat against Kitchee.
Photo Credit:

Tampines return home after being scathed by Hong Kong champions Kitchee by three goals to one in their encounter at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground. The Hong Kong champions proved to be too strong for Tampines and the solitary goal scored by Tampines came from former Woodlands winger Jamil Ali, who played one season for the Rams back in 2009.

After a slow start to their 2012 S-League season, the S-League champions remain winless so far, clawing back to a 2-2 draw in Brunei against DPMM before falling 1-0 to Balestier Khalsa. The midweek loss in Hong Kong did not do the Stags any favours as they enter this next home fixture knowing that the revitalised Rams are not going to be an easy opponent, as compared to the Woodlands Wellington of past seasons.

Ever since moving to Clementi Stadium early this year, the Stags have yet to play in front of their adopted home crowd and it remains to be seen if they can garner support from the 88,000 population, whom must have become accustomed to the frequent change of teams based in their town, housing Tanjong Pagar United last season and Etoile FC the season before that. The Rovers have spared no effort in connecting with Clementi residents as they held a fanfare at Clementi MRT station on 3rd March to drum up support. Apart from giving out souvenirs and flyers which entitled the holders to watch any Tampines Rovers home game free during the month of March, they have also graciously promised free popcorn and candy floss for the game tomorrow.

Captain Hammond and Hard Man Lewis - The Rocks of Woodlands.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Looking at the team lineups for this cruncher, we are assured of the defensive prowess of our back four. Our stingy defence has only let in two goals so far and custodian Ahmadulhaq Che Omar must be praised for his safe hands in keeping the goals out. On top of that, captain Daniel Hammond, who marshalled the defence rather commendably, has been mentioned in two S-League teams of the week (, FootballOPOD) while Duncan "Wooooooo!" Elias made it to's team of the week as well. Fullback K Sathiaraj and hard man Fabien Lewis will also be called upon once again to deflect the spirited Tampines attack, led by the evergreen Aleksandar Đurić.

We can also take heart from the lion hearted performance from our midfielders and wingers, and judging by their fantastic discipline in the last bout against Albirex, we should see the rock-steady Armanizam Dolah starting once again in central midfield alongside the enterprising Shamsudin Abdul RahmanGuntur Djafril will be plying the length of the wings once again along with Hussein Akil, will be looking to provide the killer assists and darting mazy runs that he is so well known for.

Moon Soon-Ho will seek to add a few more goals to his tally.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Up front, the performances of Goh Swee Swee and Moon Soon-Ho have been nothing short of fantastic so far. Although both failed to get on the scoresheet against Albirex, they were nonetheless a thorn to the Japanese outfit's defence, testing the Albirex backline time and again with quick counter attacks. Moon will be looking to add to his tally of 2 goals so far while Goh Swee Swee will be encouraged by his sweet curler against Geylang United, which made it to third place in ESPN's goal of the week. (You could replay that goal numerous times and still be awed by its beauty and precision.)

Apart from the 11 men on the field, we can be assured of the depth in the squad with the quality we have on our bench. Defender Vincent Lee has tasted first team action in the match against Geylang and held his own, while experienced campaigner Farizal Basri can be counted upon to lend some extra bite to the squad at any point of time during the game. Midfielders Han Yiguang and Prime League captain Farhan Hairoddin can also provide support if the need arises. Last but definitely not least, former Gombak midfielder and new signing Aloysius Yap also joins the Rams this week and we could see the debut of our new boy pretty soon.

The infamous "confetti storm" of the Black Sheep
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

And, of course, the 12th man (The Black Sheep) will be there to back up the Kambing Boys with our brand of songs and our "Kambing Power".

The stage is set for a nail-biting encounter between the Rams and the Stags tomorrow at Clementi Stadium. Woodlands is once again billed as the underdog for this match as we are facing the champions. However, it is time to shake off this tag once and for all and what better time to do it than against a sputtering Tampines side that is low in confidence. Bring on the Stags, I say! Let's fill the stands of Clementi Stadium with confetti and back our boys for the win!


Match Information
Date: Friday, 9th March, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Clementi Stadium
Tickets: $5.00 (Adult), $ 1.00 (Student)

Our boys will be in the blue away kit tomorrow.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

All WWFC supporters are encouraged to come in blue (away colours) and to sit with the Black Sheep. Let's rock Clementi Stadium!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Reaction: Woodlands vs Albirex

Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

"Cruel game I would say, but that is football." said Ram's assistant coach Clement Teo as he gave his thoughts during a post match interview with Judging by the brave display put up by our boys, who showed exemplary discipline by following coach Salim's game plan diligently, it was a cruel result indeed.

With both teams evenly matched throughout the 90 minutes and the game seemingly headed towards a nil-nil stalemate, Albirex's Yasuhiro Yamakoshi broke the deadlock with virtually the last kick of the game by slotting home the winner towards the tail end of the 92nd minute after a mix up between custodian Ahmadulhaq Che Omar and centre back Fabien Lewis. It is interesting to note that Albirex had scored 7 goal prior to this match, 3 against SAFFC and 4 against a hapless Tanjong Pagar before the international break. 

Armanizam Dolah's performance in the middle of the park was promising. Raddy, are you watching?
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Despite failing to keep a clean sheet, we can take heart from the fact that our boys made it extremely difficult for Albirex to score against us. The resilient backline of Daniel Hammond, Fabien Lewis, K. Sathiaraj and Duncan Elias, broke down almost every attacking move from the Japanese outfit, and even the in-form Toshikazu Soya found it impossible to perforate the Rams' backline. Soya had scored a total of three goals in the previous two league matches coming into this match and was widely tipped to score in this game as well. Instead, he was frustrated time and again and was eventually replaced with Yamakoshi in the 85th minute, a move which proved to be crucial for the White Swans. 

Swee Swee's tackles and running were full of commitment.
Nothing is going to stop this Ram, not even mighty Albirex!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Although Woodlands seemed to be playing a more defensive game as compared to Albirex, the post match statistics showed otherwise. Woodlands had 10 shots on goal, just 2 shy of Albirex's 12 shots. There were definitely chances which fell the Rams' way, such as Hussein Akil's one-two with the hardworking Guntur Djafril which ended in a stinging shot from the young Australian and an equally good save from Albirex goalkeeper Takuma Ito to keep the shot out. Moon Soon-Ho's looping lob shot late in the second half also had the crowd holding their breath and it was definitely on its way in until Ito tipped it over for a corner.

Shamsurin was another player who worked his socks off to neutralize the threat of the Albirex midfield.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In addition to our steadfast defence, a special mention also goes out to our hardworking wingers Goh Swee Swee and Guntur Djafril, both whom chased every ball down the flanks tirelessly, and the promising "Balestier Boys" pair of Armanizam Dolah and Shamsurin Abdul Rahman, whose gutsy tackles and timely headers protected the back four by snuffing out Albirex's attempt to connect their passes to their strikeforce. Armanizam had a resplendent match and showed glimpses of former captain Goh Tat Chuan's commanding performances in the middle of the park for the Rams back in the mid-noughties.

Guntur Djafril was ever present in both attack and defence.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

When referee Sukhbir Singh blew the final whistle moment after Yamakoshi's goal, we stood up with pride and sang with all our might. Our boys had put up a brave fight and we made sure we let them know that we appreciated their hard work on the field. Sure, it would have been a fair result if the match ended in a draw but as Clement Teo says, this is football. Nonetheless, we were still proud of our Rams and the endearing performance against the strong Japanese only served to strengthen our resolution of shaking off last season's tag of wooden spoonist and taking the form of serious title contenders at the other end of the spectrum.

"Big Boss" Ahmadulhaq was equal to the task of snuffing out the dangerous Albirex attack.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

With Harimau Muda and Hougang United both notching victories over Tanjong Pagar and Geylang United respectively, we slip from second place down to fourth place as we dust ourselves off and look forward to next week's match against Tampines Rovers at their new "home ground" - Clementi Stadium.

It doesn't matter if we win, lose or draw. We love our Rams, and we'll definitely
be back for more. Bring on the Stags, we say! Bila Bila Woodlands!
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Bring on the stags, I say. We will put up a good fight, just as we did against the league leaders. The familiar echoes of Bila Bila Woodlands and Kambing Power will resonate through Clementi as our Rams head out of the tunnel to face Tampines next Friday. Never surrender!