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)

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

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