A run of three consecutive victories for Shillong Lajong FC has provided the squad with extra motivation, but the club are mindful of the challenges ahead, the first of which comes on Sunday at 4:30PM when the Reds take on former Hero I-League champions Churchill Brothers at the JN Stadium in the seventh round of the 2016-17 season.
Lajong have experienced a sharp turnaround from their start to the year and aim to continue their winning momentum at their Shillong Fortress backed by the Lajong Faithfuls. Incidentally, the Reds have been undefeated in their last six I-League matches at the JN Stadium, going back to 1st April 2016.
To extend their winning streak, however, the Reds will have to get the better of Churchill, something they have yet to do in an I-League home match. The two sides have clashed four times in Shillong in the league’s previous years, with two draws and two victories for the Goan team.
Speaking at the pre-match press conference today, Shillong Lajong coach Thangboi Singto said, “Winning gives us extra motivation, but we’ve been telling the players that tomorrow will be another big match, another big challenge. Looking at Churchill’s team sheet you see strong players experienced at the Indian level. We have to be on our toes and give it our best.”
Lajong have seen an upwards performance since the start to the season, culminating in a 2-0 victory over Chennai City FC on Tuesday. The club will be banking on the outstanding services of Cameroonian striker Aser Dipanda Dickam, who has scored five goals in three games, along with their youngsters like Rupert Nongrum, Isaac Vanmalsawma and Chinglensana Singh.
“We are a much improved side and I have confidence in the team. One thing that we have to ensure is that we maintain our intensity throughout the 90 minutes,” Singto added.
Like tomorrow’s hosts, Churchill also lost their opening three fixtures, but the Goan club looked to make a strong comeback and they pulled off two away draws while defeating defending champions Bengaluru FC 2-1 at home. Churchill are currently eighth in the table on five points, while Lajong are in fifth position on nine points.
Representing the Goan club at the press interaction today was the team manager Denzil Ferrao, who said, “It has been a very challenging start to the season for us. We had just five days to prepare the team ahead of the I-League and I’m confident that as the tournament goes on we will play better.”
Speaking about the Reds, Ferrao added, “Winning three games in a row shows that Lajong are a very good team. We will have to be very cautious at the beginning of tomorrow’s match.”
Also present at the press conference was Lajong midfielder Rupert Nongrum, who has featured in the starting XI for all three home fixtures so far and scored a scintillating goal in the 2-1 victory over Minerva Punjab FC.
“We’ve done really well so far, but there is always room for improvement. We’ve been training hard and will go all out for the win. The feeling when you win is completely different and we want to always feel that way,” Nongrum said, adding that he is “really looking forward” to seeing the Lajong Faithfuls come out and support the team at the ground tomorrow.