Thursday, April 26, 2012

Opponent Watch: Brunei DPMM

DPMM FC's eight game unbeaten run was smashed last week following a one-nil loss to Home United at Jalan Besar Stadium. That would come as a blow to Vjeran Simunić's team as they were the only unbeaten team in the S.League prior to that match, and the Bruneian outfit will no doubt be looking to get back to winning ways in front of their home crowd in Bandar Seri Begawan.

The impressive 30,000 seater Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium
Photo Credit: Wikicommons

The Rams can expect to play in front of thousands of Bruneian fans in the 30,000 seater Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium, in what may probably be the largest crowd they've ever seen in the S.League this season. The stadium, which was built to the tune of S$100 million in 1984, has seen an average crowd of 6298 [source] this season and it will be a hallowing experience for our boys to be playing in front of such a large, hostile crowd.

For doubters of Woodlands' ability to rough it out with the big boys, just ask Albirex Niigata's Koichi Sugiyama or Harimau Muda's Ong Kim Swee and chances are that they would tell you that the Rams are no easy pushovers. The boys showed plenty of character against both of these teams, and even though the odds were hugely stacked against the Rams, they fought hard, resulting in slim victories for both the White Swans and the Young Tigers. Hence, there is a fair chance that Woodlands would emerge winners from this fixture with the Bruneian Wasps.

Basiru Osman in action against Tanjong Pagar
Photo Credit: FAS

The main reason for the Wasps' success this year can be placed squarely on the shoulders of Ghanian striker Basiru Osman. The 22 year old has 4 goals to his name so far, netting against Tampines, SAFFC, Geylang United and Gombak United. Although Osman has drawn mainly blanks in his last 3 matches, his blistering pace is something that our defence has to look out for. Home United did a good job shutting out Osman and his Brazilian strike partner, the evergreen Rodrigo Gral, in their encounter last week and the Rams must look to do the same. While the Protectors showed clearly that they missed the services of the dependable Isa Halim, who policed (pun intended) their midfield with tenacity up to last season, the Rams can rely on the reliable pair of Han Yiguang and Armanizam Dolah to arrest any balls from DPMM's midfield to the duo of Osman and Gral.

DPMM's marauding winger - Shahrazen Said
Photo Credit: FAS

The boys will also need to contain the threat posed by Bruneian winger, Shahrazen Said. The bald 26 year old has scored 5 times already this season, and he was a handful for Tanjong Pagar the last time a S.League match was played here two weeks ago. A pale ghost of his usual self against Home United, Shahrazen was taken off after just 41 minutes last week (It was later reported that he was running a fever), and was replaced by his younger brother, Adi Said. The fearsome winger will be looking to bounce back and we will count on Duncan Elias and Guntur Djafril to snuff out this dangerman.

While the Wasps have been firing on all cylinders upfront, the same cannot be said of their defence, which seemed to have lost some confidence as of late. DPMM right back Shahrulrizal Rahman seems like the weakest link for the Bruneians coming into this match and it was his mistake that led to Frederic Mendy's goal last week.  

Moon will fancy his chances against the Wasps defence,
which seems to have lost their confidence as of late.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Moon Soon-Ho should have the opportunity to have some decent chances at DPMM's goal. Although Hussein Akil is still doubtful for this match, the Australian's blazing pace and trickery would be a handful for DPMM if he should feature. Otherwise, Farizal Basri should start once again with Moon upfront and he will be energized by that exquisite chip he scored last week. Shamsurin Abdul Rahman, who played so well in last week's friendly against Katong FC, should also be encouraged to continue his fine form in Bandar Seri Begawan as well.

Although the Bruneians expect an easy win over the Rams, we know that it will be a tight game and a fight to the finish.

Come on you Rams! Never Surrender!

Match Information
Date: Friday, 27th April, 2012 (8.15pm kick-off)
Venue: Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium

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

Will we see this after tomorrow's match?
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Match Report: Woodlands Wellington vs Katong FC (Friendly)

There was never any doubt of a Woodlands victory over lower opposition, and the Rams did so in emphatic fashion, putting 4 goals past a courageous Katong side which just refused to give up.

Katong FC players huddling in their red strip before the match.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Salim Moin rested a few regulars for this friendly match and opted for Danny Chew to make his home debut at right wing-back. Farizal Basri also started as a lone striker up front, supported by a five man midfield comprised of Armanizam Dolah, Duncan Elias, Shamsurin Abdul Rahman, Han Yiguang and Guntur Djafril.

Matthew playing in goal for Katong FC
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

It was interesting to see Woodlands team manager and goalkeeping coach Matthew Michael Tay smartly decked out in his goalkeeper's outfit and starting between the sticks for Katong FC, a position he has made his own since he started playing for the NFL Division 2 side.

Farizal Basri was a joy to watch
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

First Half

The Rams started off strongly with Farizal Basri constantly threatening the Katong defence with his testing runs and clever play. The accomplished campaigner showcased his experience by making timely runs to create space for his teammates and laying off the ball to players who were in better scoring positions, giving Katong defenders Nicholas Low and Jason Ng a torrid time .

Armanizam Dolah came close to scoring the opener for Woodlands
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Woodlands nearly drew first blood when Armanizam Dolah did well enough to cut through the Katong defence but his shot crashed against the upright with only Matthew to beat. Moments later, Shamsurin Abdul Rahman squeezed through the tight Katong defence but the alert Matthew managed to smother the ball before Shamsurin could pull the trigger.

With the relentless pressure growing on Katong, the Rams soon scored their first goal against the Division II side. Farizal Basri, picking up a pass in the opponent's half, started a promising run towards the Katong goal. The cultured forward then sliced through the defence like a hot knife through butter and finished off his fine run by pulling off an exquisite chip over the fully stretched Matthew from just outside the penalty box to put the Rams ahead.

Danny Chew plying the right flank for Woodlands
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Right wingback Danny Chew, making his debut for the first team, bombed forward together with his counterpart, Edward Tan, as the Rams went in search for more goals. Direct passes were sent down the middle via the dependable duo of Armanizam and Han Yiguang while crosses came in from both flanks from the two wingbacks.

Shamsurin - the driving force behind almost every Rams' attack
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The consistent cut and thrust seemed to be too much for the Katong players as they soon gave away a penalty. A cross from the right, whipped in by Han Yiguang, missed Farizal Basri by mere inches and was promptly cleared to the left flank. As Duncan Elias prepared to square another ball into the box, he was clipped by a defender, leaving the referee no choice but to point to the penalty spot.

Armanizam Dolah was tasked to despatch the penalty but his initial shot to the left of the goal was saved by Matthew, who dived in the right direction. However, there was no mistake from Armanizam the second time round as he banged home the rebound to the right this time to give the Rams a two goal cushion heading into the half time break. The break also saw Matthew being substituted with Katong reserve goalkeeper Tan Tah Jiun.

Second Half

The restart saw Woodlands continuing to pile on the pressure on Katong. Guntur, Farizal and Shamsurin all had chances on goal but they were let down with wasteful finishing. However, the trio made up for that when they orchestrated one of the moves of the game. A one-two between Farizal and Shamsurin was laid back to Guntur Djafril, who unleashed a beautiful low shot which blazed past Katong keeper Tan. Full credit to the fully-stretched keeper for attempting a save, but there was nothing much he could do about that accurately placed shot.

Guntur celebrates his beautifully taken goal
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Woodlands dugout soon made multiple changes, bringing on Ang Ban Heng, Vincent Lee, K. Sathiaraj, Oswind Suriya, Aloysius Yap and Goh Swee Swee. It was the latter who made the biggest impact, making a fruitful run with the ball late in the game and curling a screamer past Tan for Woodlands' fourth and final goal of the night, capping a brilliant team performance from the Rams. Nothing as fancy as the screamer he scored against Geylang earlier this season, but still a gem of a goal, nonetheless.

Goh Swee Swee scoring the fourth goal
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

It was good to see the Rams playing plenty of attacking football and I'm sure the scoreline would attest to the beautiful flowing football that was played at Woodlands on Friday.

Good to see Duncan back on the pitch.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

It's always nice to welcome players back from injury and Duncan Elias certainly did not lose his fitness despite being away for three weeks. The left footer was deployed in left midfield and he showed no signs of lethargy as he put in a spirited performance.

Promising youngster Oswind Suriya. Don't be fooled by the number, he was wearing Moon's kit.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Oswin Suriya was another player who impressed with his tireless running and pacy dribbles. He showed plenty of promise when he was introduced to the pitch and we can be assured that the Rams have plenty of depth in the squad.

Shamsurin Abdul Rahman must be credited a swell for his hard work in the middle of the park and his prospective runs into the Katong defence. His passing was immaculate as well, and he would have gotten his name on the scoresheet as well if not for Matthew's save in the first half.

Despite the scoreline, the Katong players put up a resolute display and they can be proud of themselves for playing their hearts out. The stocky Adelard Teng, who was playing at left back, was particularly impressive and although he was facing S.League players such as Danny Chew and Han Yiguang, he continued running and battling to the end.

The Rams face Brunei DPMM next, and let's hope the boys can bring forward their positive play and give the Bruneians the match of their lives. Never Surrender!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Opponent Watch: Katong FC (Div II) - Friendly Match

Having received a bye in the S.League's round of matches in week 10, Woodlands Wellington has decided to keep up their squad's tempo by arranging a friendly match against NFL Division II side Katong Football Club tonight at the Woodlands Stadium.

Katong FC may be playing their football two tiers below the Rams but the 2008 FA Cup Runners-Up will be no pushovers. Affiliated with the Singapore Chinese Football Club, Katong FC comes into this friendly on the back of a 4 - 2 victory over Balestier Recreation Club in their Division II encounter last week.

Katong Football Club
Photo Credit: Football OPOD

Rams' fans may be surprised to find a couple of familiar faces in the Division II side, with Woodlands' club officials such as Matthew Michael Tay (WWFC Team Manager / Goalkeeping Coach) tending the goal for Katong along with Woodlands' reserve goalkeeper Ang Ban Heng, and Clement Teo (WWFC Assistant Coach) coaching the Katongers. The strong link between the 2 clubs are further strengthened by Woodlands' technical consultant Tee Tan, a seasoned NFL campaigner who used to play for the Katongers as well.

The trio of Matthew, Ang and Tan go a long way back when they won the Singapore Pools FA Cup with Tampines Rovers SC 1951 back in 2004, a memorable match where they trounced their opponents 7 -0. The game will hold specials memories for Tan, where he scored 4 goals to help Tampines lift the FA Cup. 

Matthew warming-up our goalkeepers before our match with Harimau Muda.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Katongers finished the 2011 NFL Division II season in 7th place and they are currently sitting in 5th spot in the 2012 campaign with 3 points after 2 matches. Katong FC is affiliated to the Singapore Chinese Football Club and they have an annual friendly match with the Malaysia Chinese Football Club to maintain the cordial ties between the 2 clubs. 

Interesting Fact: Katong FC's warcry during their pre-match group huddle is "Huat Ah!" which roughly translates to "Prosper!".

Coach Clement keeping a watchful eye over the boys.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

This friendly will be a good time for coach Salim Moin to test out new tactics and provide some pitch action for players returning from injury. It would also be good to see reserve players such as Andy Ahmad, Danny Chew, Vincent Lee, Farhan Hairoddin and Oswind Suriya being given a chance to play in more advanced roles to keep them in match-fit conditions.

With Hussein Akil still doubtful due to a hamstring injury, Farizal Basri should start with Moon Soon-Ho in attack, bolstered by Shamsurin Abdul Rahman, who impressed with his runs and passing against Harimau Muda last weekend, and the dependable Armanizam Dolah bolstering the midfield. Duncan Elias should also return to first team action, along with K. Sathiaraj.

Both teams will take the friendly seriously as they will both be facing formidable opponents in their next round of matches in their respective leagues. Woodlands squares off with DPMM in what will surely be a nail-biting encounter in Brunei next week while Katong FC will meet former Rams' manager R.Vengadasalam's Admiralty Wolves FC in a cruncher.

It should be an interesting match, and the boys would be lifted by the extra incentive of putting goals past Boss Matthew. 

The Rams should be dressed in their yellow home kit while Katong FC should be dressed red for this one. Do come down to Woodlands Stadium if you're free for what should be an entertaining encounter between the two teams. Admission is free.

Come On You Rams! Huat Ah!

Match Information
Date: Friday, 20th April, 2012 (7.00pm kick-off)
Venue: Woodlands Stadium
Admission: Free

For the latest matchday info and other updates, you are encouraged to follow the Black Sheep on our Facebook page.
See you there! Never Surrender!
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reaction: Harimau Muda vs Woodlands

It was a match billed as the northern derby as the Young Malaysian Tigers faced Woodlands Wellington, a team who were located closest to the border. Harimau Muda came into this match expecting an easy game and boy, were they in for a big surprise.

Guntur Djafril tussling with Harimau Muda striker Izzaq Faris Ramlan.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

On a sodden Yishun pitch. the Woodlands players expanded every last ounce of energy in their bodies and displayed their fierce tenacity and fighting spirit on the pitch, refusing to give up despite pre-match predictions heavily favouring Harimau Muda to put three or more goals past the Rams.

Armanizam did well in both attack and defence. Raddy - are you watching?
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

In the opening quarter, it was evident that the Rams were not just here to make up the numbers. Backed by the mesmerizing war drums in the away stands, the Rams were here to fight for a result. And fight they did. Every time the Young Tigers surged forward seeking an early goal, the Rams would reply with promising counter-attacks of their own. The pair of Moon Soon-Ho and Farizal Basri were constantly breathing down the Harimau Muda defence's neck.

Farizal was a constant threat to the Harimau Muda's defence.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

And this gutsiness did eventually pay off when they were awarded a free kick just outside the Harimau Muda penalty box. Daniel Hammond's low shot was driven into the wall and Armanizam Dolah's curling effort off the rebound saw Harimau Muda custodian Izham Tarmizi pulling off a magnificent dive to his left to parry the ball away. However, Izham's subsequent lunge at Moon Soon-Ho, who fancied his chances off the ricocheted ball, was deemed to be too dangerous and referee K. Kalimuthu immediately pointed to the penalty spot. Moon made no mistake from the spot as he cooly slotted home the spot kick for his 5th goal of the 2012 campaign.

Moon cooly slotting home his spot kick
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Harimau Muda team, apparently shocked by the Rams' lead, started pushing bodies forward in search of an equalizer. However, this meant that they would inevitably be exposed at the back, leaving all sorts of holes for the speedy Moon and Farizal to exploit. Farizal was presented with a couple of chances to put the Rams further ahead but he was let down by poor finishing on both occasions.

Ahmad Hazwan tripped by Edward Tan's sliding tackle, earning a lifeline for his team.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The Young Tigers were offered some sort of reprieve when they were awarded a penalty in the 37th minute when Ahmad Hazwan, whom Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee recently praised for his ability and potential to be "better than Safee Sali", was brought down by Edward Tan's tackle. The highly rated Wan Zack Haikal was tasked to take the penalty but the No. 16 could only bury his head in his hands as the outstanding Ahmadulhaq Che Omar guessed the right direction of the ball and saved the spot kick convincingly, to the joy of the Black Sheep.

Up steps Wan Zack Haikal...
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)
Ahmadulhaq was equal to the task of keeping the spot kick out.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)
Fantastic save by a fantastic keeper.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

While there was plenty of excitement in the first half with both sides playing lovely football, the same cannot be said for the second half.

Harimau Muda came out looking for the all important equalizer and surged forward aggressively and the Rams soaked up the relentless pressure. Perhaps sensing that they were not making any headway to score in open play, the Young Tigers made sudden changes to their style of play rather uncharacteristically.

Now Harimau Muda is a team that I respect very much prior to this match,  and we all know that these young Malaysian boys have bags of talent. But I was shocked to witness them suddenly dropping like flies everywhere on the pitch.

Pretty much a summary of the second half.
I think the Young Tigers spent more time on their backs then on their feet.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Take Wan Zack Haikal for example. A shining example of a star winger, the young Malaysian dribbles with much aplomb and shows most defenders a clean pair of heels. However, the Wan Zack Haikal we saw in the second half was a totally different player. As soon as a tackle comes in, the amazing and pacy winger turns into a guy who falls at the slightest touch as if he just got shot by a sniper hiding in the HDB block overlooking the stadium. And referee K. Kalimuthu was having a field day, handing out free kicks all over the pitch against the Rams.

Dropping like flies all over the place. Is it a coincidence that the
same player is involved in almost every infringement?
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Soon, more Harimau Muda players followed suit. It was like watching a synchrony of falling yellow jerseys all over the place. When the skillful Gary Robbat entered the Rams' penalty box, Woodlands captain Daniel Hammond put in an attempt to tackle the ball from Robbat. The Malaysian jumped up in the air like a salmon and landed face first on the pitch in a move which would have made the entire China National Diving Team proud. Referee K. Kalimuthu awarded his second penalty to the Young Tigers and this time Robbat placed the spot kick into the top left corner with an unstoppable shot. A beautiful penalty, yes, but the means of getting the penalty was simply disgraceful.

Sensing referee K. Kalimuthu's generosity in handing out penalties, the usually sporting Young Tigers continued their theatrics when they realised that they were never going to put any past our resolute defence in open play.

The Malaysians must be singing:
"Can we have Kalimuthu (pictured above in sensitive new age pink) every week?"
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

K. Kalimuthu would complete his hat-trick of penalties (cue applause) for Harimau Muda when Wan Zack Haikal showed his team mates how it should be done when he tried to better Robbat's Oscar-worthy efforts by staying down longer and even cringing with more conviction than the latter, drawing angry chants of "Divers! Divers!" from the disgruntled away crowd. Wan Zack must have felt triumphant as his wonderful play-acting got Goh Swee Swee his second yellow of the night, while Harimau Muda captain Affize Faizal dispatched the spot kick to give the Young Tigers the lead

How many times do we have to see this, Wan Zack? Dreadful!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

As the referee blew the final whistle, the scoreline did not do justice to the Rams' gutsy performance on the field. Tipped to be on the losing end of a huge scoreline, our boys certainly did not let that happen.

On a positive note, Ahmadulhaq Che Omar carried over his inspirational form from the SAFFC game, pulling off save after save to keep the Rams in the match. With his draconian effort, I am sure he has earned even more plaudits after that fine penalty save and his overall performance. The Rams' No. 1, who once commented that he counts former Woodlands goalkeeper Sandro Radun as one of his inspirations, is sure on the path to becoming a Woodlands legend himself.

Andy Ahmad was disciplined and displayed maturity far beyond his years.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Andy Ahmad was another player who shone when he was thrown onto the field as a right wingback after we were reduced to 10 men. The young 21 year old midfielder definitely did not let his big name opponents faze him, putting in a mature and level headed  performance which was years ahead of his tender age. The youngster is fast becoming a fan favourite and a new nickname, AA27, has been derived among the fans, a tribute to his initials and his jersey number.

The match also saw the return of another fan favourite, the reliable Duncan Elias, after a three week absence due to injury and illness. The affable left-footer came on for Guntur Djafril in the second amidst cheers from the Black Sheep, the cheering amplified by members of the Hougang Hools (Duncan played for the Cheetahs before switching to Woodlands this season) who were sitting in the away stands to cheer the Rams along with the Black Sheep. Duncan plied the left flank and did a decent job against the Young Tigers and it was certainly good to see him back on the pitch once again.

Our very own Twin Towers, Daniel and Fari, kept the Malaysians at bay.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

While most papers and reports would concentrate on the abysmal referring in the game and inevitably focus on the unbelievable number of penalties awarded in a single game, we prefer to focus on the positive side of our Rams, who fought valiantly until the final whistle. And that would be the fact that the highly touted Young Tigers failed to score against a 10 men Woodlands side from open play.

Penalty given against us? We're not going to stop bouncing!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

I'm not sure if there is such a term as a convincing loss, but we certainly played with conviction against Harimau Muda. There is no such thing as a "sure-win" fixture in the league. Not against our tough boys, anyway.

Who's next? DPMM? Bring them on, I say!

The Rams have a week's break before heading to Brunei for their next fixture on 27th April. Look out for our opponent watch as the DPMM fixture draws nearer!

Braveheart Woodlands fans - We will Never Surrender!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Black Sheep goes on

It is always a wonderful feeling to be acknowledged by the mainstream media for your involvement in the local football fraternity, and what better place to be mentioned than on the official S.League website -

The Black Sheep would like to thank Nigel Chin and for the write-up. You've made our wool ends tingle with joy!

The article can be found by following this link. Happy reading!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Opponent Watch: Harimau Muda

Following the exciting 2 - 2 draw last week at Jalan Besar, the Rams will no doubt be full of confidence coming into this next fixture against Harimau Muda. Taking the lead twice through the superb Moon Soon-Ho, the Rams were unlucky not to have gone home with all three points as the Warriors clawed their way back into the game with two equalizers.

While many would argue that SAFFC's performance was off-colour, the Choa Chu Kang based outfit certainly has one of the strongest and most experienced teams in the league, boasting at least 5 nationals / ex-nationals in their squad, as well as last season's top scorer, Mislav Karoglan.

However, the height and aerial prowess of Daniel Hammond dealt with SAFFC's high balls while Fabien Lewis' timely tackles were vital in cancelling out the Warriors' attacks. Edward Tan's bold performance at centre-left back, in an unusual 3-5-2 formation, also earned him a spot in Football OPOD's S-League Team of the Week (Week 8). Keeping out the dynamic duo of Fazrul Nawaz and Karoglan for most of the match,  the resolute Rams' defence will need to garner the same kind of confidence against a very lethal Harimau Muda attack.

The Black Sheep cheering the Rams on during the SAFFC fixture at Jalan Besar.
Photo Credit: Lioneldude Photography

The Young Tigers were unbeaten in their six previous games until they suffered a 2 - 1 defeat at the hands of Home United last sunday. The pacy Malaysians were expected to create lots of trouble for the Protectors' defence but Home United's master tactician Lee Lim-Saeng opted for five at the back, a tactic which seemed to have paid off against the Young Tigers.

One player the Rams will have to be wary of is Ahmad Hazwan, who scored a screamer last week. Harimau Muda coach Ong Kim Swee waxed lyrical about Ahmad during his post match interview last week, and went on to say that he believed that he could go on to better 28 year old Malaysia star striker Safee Sali, who currently captains Pelita Jaya in the Indonesian Super League. "I've been rating him as our next top striker in Malaysia." gushed Ong. "With more international exposure, he will be even better than Safee."

Midfielder Wan Zack Haikal is another Young Tiger who has been making waves in the S.League with his goal-scoring ability and piercing runs down the right flank, while 19 year old sensation Gary Robbat, who packs a powerful shot, has to be closely watched. It will be another busy day for our midfielders to wrest control of the game and break on the counter.

Moon Soon-Ho will look forward to add more goals to his tally after that wonderful performance last week and the Rams will look forward to the likely return of defenders K. Sathiraj and Duncan Elias to the first team. Hussein Akil remains doubtful due to a hamstring injury but he will be more than a handful for the young Malaysians if he makes a surprise start  or substitution.

Dangerman Wan Zack Haikal (No. 16) will pose a huge threat to the Rams
Photo Credit: FAS

With the Harimau Muda now playing their home games at the Yishun Stadium (last used by Beijing Guoan), the match is billed as a Northern Derby of sorts. With the flurry of Malaysians working and living in Singapore, as well as the stadiums close proximity to the causeway, we are sure that the Malaysian fans will be out in full force to support their Young Tigers.

For the travelling Black Sheep, it will be a short journey east to Yishun in a stadium best remembered for the famed derby between Woodlands Wellington and Sembawang Rangers.

Are you ready for the new "Northern Derby"? Come on you Rams! Never Surrender!

Match Information
Date: Sunday, 15th April, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Yishun 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.

The Black Sheep Confetti Storm - Coming soon to Yishun Stadium.
Photo Credit: Aaron Chan (The Black Sheep)

Monday, April 9, 2012

Reaction: Woodlands vs SAFFC

As far as performances go, our draw against SAFFC will rank right up there alongside the most memorable nights at Jalan Besar Stadium. Although the Rams endured a frenetic and nervy climax to the game, there was a collective desire shown by the whole squad to eke out a result against the Warriors, who had been widely tipped by pundits and the media to win this one easily.

"Super Moon" scoring his second of the night.
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

A victory over the Warriors was certainly running through the minds of every player and fan as we took the lead twice against the S.League powerhouses. Granted, SAFFC rolled up their sleeves and played equally hard to even out the score on booth occasions, but it was good to see the Rams work the ball around and string those important passes together to get their confidence going. And this was a depleted squad playing without three first team players - Hussein Akil, Duncan Elias and K. Sathiaraj.

On certain occasions, we could see SAFFC's players pushing hard to keep up with the Rams. We were definitely not going to roll over and play dead for this fixture. You could see the fire in every Ram's belly. We were not content on just sitting back and absorbing the pressure. When we broke off on the counter, you could see how much our forwards wanted to win the game for us.

Photo Credit:Leo Shengwei

The Warriors must have been shocked to see the Rams go in front when the superb Moon Soon-Ho blazed past a backpeddling Noh Rahman to latch on to Armanizam Dolah's sharp punt to place a volley past the oncoming Sharil Jantan in a fine team move that had seen SAFFC slack in defence. Needless to say, the Warriors' fans suddenly went silent when they realized that this wasn't going to be a walk in the park as they previously thought. Full credit goes to Armanizam for his second consecutive assist following his cross which led to Goh Swee Swee's beautiful header last week.)

Moon, who was briefly floored after being sandwiched between Noh and the outcoming Sharil, did not manage to celebrate his goal but he certainly made up for it when he chased after a excellent pass from Goh Swee Swee and placed an shot with astounding accurancy past Sharil Jantan for his second of the night in the 66th minute. He immediately ran towards the Black Sheep in the gallery, smiled at the supporters and raised his arms triumphantly - drawing incessant chants of "Super Moon" from the stands - before Capt. Daniel Hammond carried Moon on his shoulders in a jubilant celebration for the Rams.

Han Yiguang had a good game in counterbalancing the Warriors' perilous midfield. 
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

It was rather uncharacteristic of the Rams to start off with a 3-5-2 formation but if the game plan was to contain the Warriors' midfield, then the strategy was pretty effective. Armanizam Dolah and Shamsurin Abdul Rahman sat in the middle of the park while Han Yiguang was deployed effectively to protect the back three. Goh Swee Swee and Guntur Djafril plied the full length of the flanks with much gusto and cause plenty of problems with their speed and determination. Yiguang was impressive, putting in the tackles where it mattered and doing a fine job of ensuring that the Warriors' attacks were broken down before it could come into our final third of the pitch. Armanizam's positional sense and accurate passing was also a vital link between the defence and attack, as was Shamsurin's penetrating runs down the middle.

Farizal Basri's name may not be on the scoresheet, but his clever hold-ups, passing and diagonal runs created plenty of space for Moon to exploit. He also confused the SAFFC defence on a couple of times with his runs and allowed Shamsurin to run down the middle. A hardworking and selfless player, Farizal deserves a thumbs-up for a gritty performance.

Ahmadulhaq Che Omar was another unsung hero who kept us in the game with his courageous saves. He could not be faulted for either of SAF's goals, particularly when he made an excellent stop just seconds before Ruzaini Zainal released a cracker that ricocheted off the underside of the crossbar. It took a few seconds before the referee decided to award the goal after consulting his linesman. While it was unclear whether the ball did actually go in, replays after the match did show that the ball had crossed the line completely.

Ahmadulhaq was amazing and we could have let in more if not for his wonderful goalkeeping
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

Goh Swee Swee's close marking of Tatsuro Inui - well-known for making himself a nuisance down the flank - kept the frustrated Japanese winger almost out of the entire game. While he was busy trailing his man, Swee Swee also had a wonderful hand in Moon's second goal. Remarkable stuff from the 25 year old winger who was made to play deeper than he usually does.

Andy Ahmad, who came in for Farizal on 64 minutes, nearly won the game for the Rams when his late shot from distance whistled just inches above the SAFFC crossbar. The young striker brought lost of pace to the Rams' attack and he had the Warriors backpeddling on a few occasions to prevent another Woodlands goal.

The Warriors must feel hard done not to have won the game, but the difference between both teams was their finishing. Granted, Woodlands was defending for the larger part of the game but when they had the chance to attack, they made the most of it and Moon finished off clinically while SAFFC's national team striker Fazrul Nawaz must be wondering if he had left his scoring boots at home for this match. The tough tackling duo of Fabien Lewis and Daniel Hammond could have also affected SAFFC mentally.

Swee Swee was disciplined and stuck to the game plan even though he was not deployed
further upfront in a more favourable position.
Photo Credit: Leo Shengwei

A wonderful result for the Rams as we now look confidently forward to next Sunday's encounter against Harimau Muda. The Rams' long goalless spell also seems to have been broken and it is important that the boys start scoring again. Moon's brace will no doubt give him plenty of confidence for the games ahead and we await with bated breath to see if the Korean hitman can continue his scoring run at Yishun stadium. Moon is Woodlands' top scorer so far with four goals to his name and he will be looking forward to add more to his tally.

Come On You Rams!

SAFFC had big bass drums and choreographed cheerleading.
We matched them with our vigorous cheering, team spirit and big hearts.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep) via Lee Siew Ping

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Opponent Watch: SAFFC

The month of April will see the Rams playing all their games away from Woodlands Stadium and this Thursday's "home match" against SAFFC will see our boys return to a pitch that has already hosted Woodlands success this season where they edged past Courts Young Lions on the opening day of the S.League season.

Former Ram Bah Mamadou will be looking to keep the Woodlands attack at bay
Photo Credit: FAS

This year's campaign hasn't been rosy for the Warriors so far, and SAFFC's 3 time S.League Coach Of The Year Winner, Richard Bok, will be asking his boys to work harder to get their campaign back on track. The Warriors are just ahead of the Rams in 8th position due to goal difference, although they have a game in hand.

Both teams come into this fixture on the back of a loss. Woodlands was unable to convert the chances they created against Hougang and allowed the visitors to leave with a flattering scoreline, while SAFFC were guilty of firing mostly blanks against Harimau Muda last weekend. Coincidentally, both players who scored the solitary goals for Woodlands (Goh Swee Swee) and SAFFC (Shimpei Sakurada) succeeded through headers which ricocheted off their opponents' crossbar.

Daniel Bennett - another former Woodlands player plying his trade for the Warriors now.
Photo Credit: FAS

The Warriors have the luxury of choosing between 2 experienced goalkeepers - Hassan Sunny and Sharil Jantan - to play between the sticks for them. On paper, SAFFC also has one of the strongest and most experienced defences in the league. Overcoming the quartet of Daniel Bennett, Razaleigh Khalik, Bah Mamadou and Noh Rahman may sound like a daunting task for many, but the Warriors have already let in a total of 14 goals this season - three more than Woodlands.

With all 4 defenders over the age of 30, quicker players may be looking to exploit the aging SAFFC defence. However, age may just be a figure for the experienced Bennett, whom, at 34, certainly doesn't show any signs of slowing down his game. With the loss of the pacy Shaiful Esah to the LionsXII squad at the start of the season, the SAFFC defence may have taken a knock but for what they lack in pace, they certainly make up for it with disciplined, no-nonsense defending.

Have no fear. Take their defence on and rip them to pieces!
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

The lively Goh Swee Swee and the agile Hussein Akil should pose plenty of problems for the SAFFC backline, as the Young Lions did against the Warriors three weeks ago. Guntur Djafril would also relish the chance to play against his former club in the same week that he celebrates his birthday, and the nippy winger has shown plenty of pace this season that could come in handy for this match. Moon Soon-Ho should also not disappoint with his trickery on the ball.

The speedy Guntur will favour his chances against his former team.
Photo Credit: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)

SAFFC is bursting at the seams with talent in a midfield boasting the likes of Mislav Karoglan, Shimpei Sakurada and Shukor Zailan. Bosnian Karoglan, who was deployed as a striker last season and won both the Top Scorer (33 goals after 23 matches) and Player of the Year awards, has gotten on the scoresheet 3 times already even though he has been dropped back deeper to help out in midfield.

All signs point to this match being won or lost depending on the victors of the tussle in the middle of the park. Our Rams must nullify the threat from the Warriors before it reaches the final third of our half, and feed our players with sufficient ammunition to constantly take shots on SAFFC's goal. Coach Salim has been rotating his midfield players as of late, depending on their performance in training, but we have faith in our midfielders and we are sure whoever starts will be aiming to give the Warriors the midfield battle of their lives. Both Armanizam Dolah or Han Yiguang will be considered for the central midfielder position and either player will form the crux of every attacking or defending move.

Mislav Karoglan - Key Man for SAFFC
Photo Credit: FAS

In the front, the Warriors pack plenty of firepower in the form of Fazrul Nawaz and Tatsuo Inui. Both forwards share a total of 5 goals between them and the Warriors would have been much higher in the table if their defence was more stable. The defensive pair of Daniel Hammond and Fabien Lewis will be looking forward to the challenge of protecting Ahmadulhaq Che Omar's goal and keeping a clean sheet against SAFFC. On the right, it is a toss up between K. Sathiaraj and Vincent Lee, while Edward Tan should deputize once again if Duncan Elias is still unfit for this match.

Are you ready for this cracker?

Match Information
Date: Thursday, 5th April, 2012 (7.45pm kick-off)
Venue: Jalan Besar 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: Andrew Him (The Black Sheep)