I-League: NEROCA FC look to wrap final home fixture on a high
NEROCA FC, who play Mohun Bagan on Sunday, was only promoted to the I-League this season, and lead the race atop the standings with thirty-one points in their kitty.football Updated: Feb 17, 2018 21:12 IST
Table toppers NEROCA FC host their final home game of the 2017-18 I-League season as they welcome Mohun Bagan to the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium in Imphal on Sunday.
The Imphal-based unit, which was only promoted to the top tier this season lead the race atop the standings with thirty-one points in their kitty.
However, with sixteen games already played, second-placed Minerva Punjab, have as many games in hand and NEROCA will look to do one better than their goalless draw with the Kolkata team earlier this season.
Having recovered well with a four-match unbeaten run after two defeats at home, the onus will be on the hosts to gain maximum points to keep the pressure on the teams below them on the table.
“Pressure is already there for me as we have only two games remaining. It is not about Mohun Bagan or even Gokulam or Indian Arrows, the pressure is always there. But, Mohun Bagan is a good team and if you can win, it is good,” NEROCA coach Gift Raikhan said.
Raikhan added, “It’s not about the championship, it’s about the history, for me and the players too. Mohun Bagan won’t play easily, they have no pressure but it is about prestige.”
He also mentioned that club captain Lalit Thapa is fit but will have a tough time choosing between Thapa and Bishorjit Singh for the game with the latter having kept four clean sheets on the trot.
Australian recruit Nick Ward had his first training session with his new club-mates on Saturday and is likely to feature on the bench.
“Our first target was top three but now that we have a good chance, why not go for it. Opportunities like this may never come back again, we have to create history for younger generations,” Raikhan said on how the success of the team augurs well for the game in the region.
On the other hand, his counterpart Sankarlal Chakraborty also realised that they have to play for prestige and the battle just would not be limited to the field.
“NEROCA FC is playing very well at home. It is a Sunday and their last home game, there will be lots of supporters, they are in the race as well. So we came prepared to fight them both on and off the field.
“With the vocal support, it will be a tough game. They gave good foreigners but the Indians like Subash Singh, Saran Singh and Sushil Singh, they have a good side.”
The 2014-15 Hero I-League winners are 10 points and three places behind their opponents and much has been down to their dismal home record this season.
Midfielder Raynier Fernandes, who has struck up a good partnership with winter window signing Cameron Watson of late revealed that there was still positivity within the squad.
“It is somewhat difficult to keep motivated after knowing you don’t have a chance of winning the title. But we are staying positive and hoping to finish on a good note,” he said.
With four games in hand, the Green and Maroons can finish with a maximum of 33 points, still one behind NEROCA if they manage to win their last one.
First Published: Feb 17, 2018 21:12 IST