Coach Irfan Bakti threw in his reserves for the Group D Malaysia Cup match against Johor Darul Takzim (JDT) at the Johor Baharu’s Larkin Stadium on Tuesday and the outcome, which was expected, a 5-0 bashing.
With Terengganu’s Malaysia Cup hopes dashed following the 3-2 defeat to Selangor at home last week, Irfan was wise enough to switch his focus on gaining promotion for the Turtles.
The Turtles are are very much in the hunt for a top two finish in the 100PLUS Premier League and Irfan and company’s battle begins in Kuantan this Friday in a tight race with four teams.
Terengganu cannot afford to drop points against Kuantan FA in Friday’s league match at the Sultan Darul Aman Stadium.
Any points lost in Kuantan will seriously jeopardise their hopes of a top two finish in the 12-team 100PLUS Premier League. Only the top two teams earn promotion to the elite Super League.
It was a wise move by the shrewd Irfan when he paraded an under strength team against JDT – the three-time Super League champions since 2014 and are strongly placed for a record fourth title.
“I fielded 80 per cent of the my reserves. It does not matter that we lost but it was a good exposure for the reserves against a star-studded team like JDT while I rested my first team players for the Kuantan match,” said Irfan on Tuesday.
Kuala Lumpur and Terengganu are in neck to neck race for the top place. Both have 38 points after 18 matches and separated by goal difference with the City Boys on top with a goal tally of 40 for and 20 against with Terengganu on 33-23.
However, Negri Sembilan and Perak SEDC (PKNP) are hot the heels in third and fourth place respectively with 37 points and goal difference separating them. Negri have a 32-17 tally against PKNP’s 32-19.
“We need to be fully focused on the league. Let us not bother about our rivals as the race hots up. There are only four matches to play for the title.
“I have faith in my team. Our Malaysia Cup hopes went up in smoke after we lost 3-2 to Selangor at home. That defeat was costly for us in the Malaysia Cup…but we are moving on and have another battle.
“There is everything to play for. To gain promotion to the Super League will be a big achievement for the team,” said the widely travelled Irfan, who coached Felda United last year. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH