PENANG: Free falling Penang have denied that they are facing a crisis following the 1-2 defeat by bottom-placed Terengganu on Saturday.
After losing to previously winless Malacca and Kelantan, the Panthers went on to hand the Turtles their first points of the season in Kuala Terengganu.
A goal in each half by Terengganu's Mohd Adam Rosli and Seidu Issifu unsettled Penang and defender S. Nanthakumar's scrambled effort 10 minutes from the end was insufficient to rescue a point.
It was Penang's fourth consecutive defeat, which included their surrender of the FA Cup when they went down to Perlis 2-3 on aggregate in the second round. It was also their worst run since coach Irfan Bakti took charge in 2000.
However, Irfan believes that it is only a short-term slump and his team will bounce back with a vengeance.
“It is very disappointing to lose to the bottom team in the league. However, I can take heart in the fact that the team went down fighting,” said Irfan yesterday.
“We fought right until the end in search of the equaliser but rain made it difficult for us to play our normal game.”
In a space of just two weeks, the Panthers have dropped from top spot to eighth in the 13-team Premier I and they have not won an away match in five outings thus far.
The slump started with a 2-3 league defeat by Kelantan in Kota Baru followed by back to back 0-2 and 0-1 losses to Perlis in the FA Cup and Premier I respectively.
Injuries to playmaker R. Suresh Kumar and wingback Chow Chee Weng have resulted in a sputtering midfield after a bright start to the season.
“Suresh's absence has greatly affected us and the replacements have failed to get their act together,” said Irfan.
“After four consecutive defeats, the team's morale has taken a knock and I am now banking on my senior players like captain Chee Wan Hoe and Yong Woon Seang to lift the team spirits.
“We have enough experience and character in the squad to bounce back from the setbacks and I am confident that we will be back at our best soon.”
Penang have a week to lick their wounds and regroup before taking on Pahang, who are enjoying a good run of form lately, in Batu Kawan on Saturday.