Updated: Feb 5
Panaji, Dec 9: A lot will be at stake when SC East Bengal square off against Jamshedpur FC in their fourth fixture and second ‘home’ game of their maiden Hero Indian Super League season at Tilak Maidan, Vasco on Thursday.
Having suffered three consecutive defeats, against ATK Mohun Bagan FC, Mumbai City FC, and NorthEast United FC, respectively, the Red-and-Golds will be in search of their first points and first goal in the competition against a side that is coming fresh off their 2-1 victory over ATK Mohun Bagan.
Speaking about the game at the virtual pre-match Press conference on Wednesday, SCEB Head Coach Robbie Fowler said, ‘Like every other game this is going to be tough. Any team can beat any other team in this league, but we need to have self-belief.’
In their last game against NEUFC, SC East Bengal dominated the match statistics as they did better than their opponents in terms of ball possession (57%-43%), passing accuracy (74%-59%), number of successful passes (398-186), number of crosses (20-12), number of touches (638-490) and number of corners won (8-2).
However, the Highlanders got two timely goals in each half to seal the contest 2-0 and bag their second win of the season, with the first one being an own goal from SCEB’s Surchandra Singh.
Fowler believes that a comeback is just around the corner. ‘The situation that we presently find ourselves in is not ideal. We want to win games; no one wants to lose. That said, we know that we’re trying to build something that will keep the club where it should be. Success cannot come overnight—you’ve got to understand that. In the games we’ve played so far, not once have we been completely outclassed. That is keeping us in good stead. We’re not far away from a positive result,’ the Liverpool legend added.
Another thing working against SCEB in the previous game was the turning down of what looked like two obvious penalties, which, if given, could have led to a different result. The SCEB Head Coach, however, doesn’t wish to read too much into it.
‘I was asked about the VAR after the last game. I’m not sure whether it can be introduced here because then the games can be three-hours-long. We know how difficult the job is for the referees, so instead of having a go at them, I think our concentration levels can be better. Maybe we were at the receiving end of three or four bad decisions, but these things happen in football,’ Fowler remarked.
The Red-and-Golds are currently missing the services of Danny Fox, Loken Meitei and Aaron Amadi-Holloway, who are all nursing injuries. Fowler revealed that they are still not match fit.
‘We’re looking after them. Hopefully, they will be back soon. Scan results are a bit better than what we initially expected. Players’ mental health is massively important; we have to take care of that aspect as well,’ the 45-year-old said.
Despite creating chances aplenty in each game, goals have eluded them so far due to lack of conversion in the final third. A prolific goal scorer in his own playing days, Fowler is backing his strikers to fare better in the upcoming games.
‘It’s not always about the strikers; you need other players to chip in with goals as well. I would’ve been more worried if we were not creating chances, but that’s not the case.
'We’ve a certain philosophy and we‘re not going to change that. Strikers go through such phases in their careers when they don’t get goals, but I’ve no doubt that they’ll improve,’ Fowler added.
Owen Coyle’s Jamshedpur FC, on the other hand, are placed seventh on the points table with five points from four games, having registered one win, one loss, and two draws. Their Lithuanian striker and last season’s golden boot winner, Nerijus Valskis, currently rules the goal-scoring roost, having scored five of his side’s six goals so far.
On being asked about his plans for Valskis, Fowler answered, ‘Strategies at times can be futile if you’ve an opposition player who’s playing well and scoring goals regularly. But we do have our strategies ready. If we get the first goal tomorrow, you’ll see a completely different SCEB side.’
Fowler also urged former players to support the club. ‘Regardless of players, the club will always be special. Please support us. Give us lots of positive energy; we don’t need negative energy at the moment. Let’s get behind the players and motivate them,’ he said.