I-League: Raikhan's boys eye another double to reach the top

Neroca FC is on a nine-game unbeaten run and is placed second in the standing. Its opponents, Shillong Lajong however, has lost its last two games and has already succumbed to a 0-1 loss on these two sides' last meeting in the league earlier.

Neroca FC players during a training session ahead of its match against Shillong Lajong.   -  Special Arrangement

An in-form Neroca FC will take on Shillong Lajong in what promises to be a testing I-League clash at the Khuman Lampak Main Stadium on Wednesday.

Neroca FC is on a nine-game unbeaten run and is placed second in the standing. Its opponents, Shillong Lajong however, has lost its last two games and has already succumbed to a 0-1 loss on these two sides' last meeting in the league earlier.

"Everybody knows that we are doing good. May not be perfect, but we are doing good so far. In my opinion, we are having a good run," said Neroca FC head coach Gift Raikhan.

Goalkeeper Lalit Thapa is doubtful for the match against Lajong due to an injury. Shambu Mishtry stepped in between the sticks in its last game against Aizawl FC and the goalkeeper has the backing of his gaffer.  

Not only has Neroca's only loss of the season come in its opening game against Minerva Punjab FC but the Raikhan-led side boasts the best defensive record in I-League this season, with just six goals conceded from 10 matches.

Read: Last-gasp Turkovic goal powers Neroca over Aizawl

"Sambhu Mishtry is experienced playing in the I-League second division for a long time. You cannot keep on changing goalkeepers all the time in the I-League like I used to do (in the second division). He (Mishtry) got a chance because of Lalit's injury and he was good against Aizawl. I hope he will prove that again in future," said Raikhan

Shillong Lajong's assistant coach Alison Kharsyntiew said that focus is the key to hold up against a strong Neroca outfit.  "It's going to be a very tough match because it's Neroca's home match. They have been performing very well but we will give our best in the 90 minutes," he stressed. "I believe in my team and I hope my players will give a good performance tomorrow. I believe that we can win."

Lajong's inability to convert the chances that it creates has hurt them in its last few games. "Looking back at the past matches against Neroca, Minerva (Punjab) and Churchill Brothers, we have not been clinical once we get inside the box. So that is one thing we are working on improving at the moment," said Kharsyntiew.

It was Subash Singh's 83rd-minute goal that separated these two sides when they met in December and the Shillong-based team will be looking to avenge that heartbreak by ending the unbeaten streak of its opponents on Wednesday. 

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