The TNBMHL goes into its penultimate weekend as so far as the league title is concerned and there is really not much to separate the teams at the moment as the matches move up north to Penang.Hence the situation will be clearer, at the top of the table as well as the bottom, for one team will miss out on the knockout stage for the TNB Cup, that has now been rescheduled to May 1 and May 3 due to the general elections on May 5.
Table toppers KL Hockey Club have a dicey weekend as they will be up against Nur Insafi Warriors on Friday and title contenders Maybank on Sunday. Maximum points from these two matches will virtually assure them the league title as Maybank will be seven points adrif with only six to play for. Thus KLHC could well be crowned champions again with two matches to spare.
"We are not looking at the title just yet as we are taking it one match at a time. The trip north is tricky for it can change everything. At the moment we are the favourites but one dropped match will mean those below us will have an opportunity to jump above us," said KLHC team manager George Koshy.
"We cannot take Nur Insafi lightly as they took both TNB and Maybank to the brink before losing out and they have been improving from match to match. And then Maybank have proven their ability and the manner in which they defeated TNB shows that Maybank is the team to beat this season.
"Taking things for granted can be dangerous hence I have advised my players not to think of the title just yet and remain focussed on the task of getting maximum points from our matches in Penang."
KLHC not only have some good foreign players in their ranks but have also got the players to gel. Even without Waseem Ahmad in midfield against Sapura on Friday, they managed to retain control of the midfield.
KLHC have proven that they have players who can score goals as a total of 11 players have contributed towards their 34 goals that they have scored thus far. Leading their chart is Akhtar Ali with 8 goals while Muhammad Imran has scored 7 goals thus far. But Akhtar needs to avoid a green card on Friday in order to be on the pitch this Sunday against Maybank.
Maybank who are second spot, thanks to their 4-3 win over TNB last Saturday can reignite the challenge for the league title if they get the better of KLHC in the 4.00pm match on Sunday.
Coached by the wily Wallace Tan, Maybank have shown that they are an all round team as they could do without key players, as evident in the match against TNB where they played without Pakistani Muhammad Irfan who had picked up eight demerit points.
With Jiwa Mohan and Muhammad Irfan just one green card away from a one match suspension, Maybank will have to thread carefully against a resurgent UniKL side whom they play on Friday.
UniKL having beaten Sapura last Sunday to move up the table seem to be relishing matches played on Sunday's as they have notched up three wins in their Sunday matches - against Nur Insafi, Terengganu HT and Sapura.
"We will try to get at least three points in Penang in order to finish in the fourth spot of the standings. This will give us a seeded position for the quarterfinal draw. But we are on track of a top four finish, and we just need to play using our heads rather then playing blindly at times," said UniKL coach Arul Selvaraj.
For Sapura, their defeat at the hands of UniKL was a bitter one, and they learnt a very important lesson, never take a win for granted. Their lackadisical approach towards the match proved to be their folly and Sapura will need to play to their ability in order to regain the fourth spot.
Players on cards watch ( one green card for suspension of matches)
Akhtar Ali (KLHC), Jiwa Mohan (Maybank), Muhammad Irfan (Maybank), Nurhrikesa Thaitchana Muruthi (Nur Insafi Warriors), Thung Wei Chua (Terengganu HT), Muhammad Azammi Abadi (TNB), Norhizzat Sumantri (TNB), Meor Muhammad Azuan Hassan (UniKL).
Leading Goal Scorers:
Faisal Saari (TNB) - 10 goals
Khasif Ali (Sapura) - 9 goals
Akhtar Ali (KLHC) - 8 goals
Mohd Noor Faeez Ibrahim (UniKL) - 8 goals
Muhammad Imran (KHLC) - 7 goals