Thursday, 13 February 2014 | MYT 4:47 PM
Junior Hockey League: Real battle is for second place
SSTMI-Thunderbolt's Mohd Najib Abu Hassan (right) and UniKL's Misniwan Gusni vying for the ball during their Division One match on Feb 8, 2014. UniKL need to work on their teamwork which has been sorely lacking. – IZZRAFIQ ALIAS / The Star
KUALA LUMPUR: SSTMI-Thunderbolt look set to retain their Division One MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysian Junior Hockey League title.
They play KLSS-KLHC in their final league match and even a draw will see them seal their fifth league title in a row. They already have four overall titles in their bag. They are not expected to falter at the last hurdle on Friday at the Taman Daya Hockey Stadium in Johor Baru.
Their consistency in winning is the result of strong support from the school and the financial clout of Tenaga Nasional, who also provide expertise in technical aspects.
The other Division One teams are still lagging. Even UniKL, with their panel of coaches which include A. Arulselvaraj, Mirnawan Nawawi, Mohamed Nasihin Nubli and M. Nadara cannot match the champions.
The SSTMI, formerly known as Bandar Penawar Sports School, found the right tonic to success when they won the support of sponsors Tenaga Nasional, and changed their name to Thunderbolt.
They have not looked back since, winning the league title in 2010, 2012, 2013 and three overall titles from 2011 to 2013.
This season, they are unbeaten after five matches with a whopping 30 goals in Division One, and are expected to have an easy time against KLSS who only have one win after four matches.
“We are fortunate that we have an ally in Tenaga Nasional. The collective effort with them has kept us at the top for the last five years,” said coach Wan Mohamed Roslan Wan Abdul Rahman.
“We still have to defeat KLSS to win the title and I am sure it will be a formality tomorrow. The players always knew that defeating UniKL was the key and I am glad they played well to win convincingly,” he said.
While the title will be decided Friday, the other feature this weekend is the fight for second place in the league.
Universiti Kuala Lumpur (UniKL) and Petaling Jaya City Council (MBPJ) will be fighting for second place when they meet on Saturday. The winner will clinch the second place.
MBPJ, who were runners-up last year, play their last league match and know that nothing short of a win will suffice.
For UniKL it is back to the drawing board after their humiliating 1-4 defeat to Thunderbolt last Saturday.
Coach Mohd Rodhanizam Mat Radzi will have to try harder to get his team working as a unit. Their inability to perform as a team stood out like a sore thumb in the match with the champions. In addition, UniKL have been lamenting their weakness in the penalty corner department but have yet to do anything about it.
“Thunderbolt exploited our weakness (last week) and we paid the price for missing chances in the first half. We will now try to win the runners-up spot and focus on the knockout stages but we need the players to have confidence in their abilities,” said Rodhanizam.
“If we can keep the mistakes down and capitalise on the chances up front, then we stand a good chance at winning,” he said.
UniKL will wrap up their league match against Anderson on Sunday.