- By ERIC SAMUEL -
PETALING JAYA: The Elephants are beginning to feel the strain after three hard-fought matches in the Super League.
Pahang coach Dollah Salleh said his men struggled and were below par in their narrow 2-1 win over Negri Sembilan at the Darul Makmur Stadium in Kuantan on Tuesday.
“The signs are there … the players are feeling the strain playing three matches in just over a week. The high-intensity matches have taken the toll on the boys. I told them this is not the Premier League any more.
“We face stronger opponents from the top flight and the season has only just begun,” said a concerned Dollah.
Newly-promoted Pahang opened their campaign in style, coming from behind to edge moneybags Johor Darul Takzim 3-2 in Kuantan on Jan 8.
Three days later, they travelled to Kelana Jaya for an afternoon kick-off match against Felda United. They won by a solitary goal in stoppage time and then returned home for the match against Negri.
There is another hard match coming up for surprise package Pahang. They are on the road again, this time against Selangor at the Shah Alam Stadium tomorrow.
Dollah will again stick to his winning formula, relying on his local players and leaving out foreign signings Mohmed Borji of Morocco and Nikolce Klekarovski of Macedonia on the bench.
“We cannot afford to take chances because I want the best men on the field. At the moment, the two foreign players have yet to adapt to the playing conditions here.
“I am not convinced by their performances yet,” said Dollah, who is expected to start with Mohd Fauzi Rozlan and international Mohd Azamuddin Akil up front.
Fauzi has been a revelation for Pahang thus far. He has found the net three times, a brace against Johor DT and the winner against Negri.
Dollah is also expected to field fleet-footed flankers R. Gopinathan and R. Surendran as they try to preserve their lead in the 12-team league.
“The matches are not getting any easier but the players have showed great determination and fighting spirit. We want to keep this momentum going,” said Dollah, whose side gained their Super League spot via the playoffs.
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