I-League: Pride at stake as Kerala host Churchill

Kozhikode, Jan 14 (IANS) It will be a bottom-of-the-table clash when ninth-placed Gokulam Kerala FC host the tenth-positioned Churchill Brothers in an I-league football match at the EMS Corporation Stadium here on Monday.

The hosts have been subjected to four consecutive losses after picking up four points in as many matches since the start of the season.

Moreover, they haven’t been able to find the back of the net in 386 minutes of football, rendering their debut season in the top flight in a rut.

Influxes of new signings in the transfer window — Francis Xavier, Kivi Zhimoni and Odafa Okolie too have failed to produce any kind of spark. Okolie, a Hero I-League winner eight seasons ago himself is under immense scrutiny as he faces a potential axe only after a single appearance with his new side.

Head coach Bino George however remained positive to lead his side to better results.

“Management is still with me and I am still confident that we can bounce back. The players are also confident to bounce back and prove themselves,” He said.

“We are not underestimating Churchill Brothers but we will not allow them to get in front of us,” he added.

Gokulam are expected to stick with a same formation but will possibly include a fit-again Vicky Meitei from the start. Mahmood Al Ajmi, the Bahraini midfielder might get his first start of the season.

It has been a similar story in terms of player changes for Churchill Brothers who only registered their first point of the season in the last game with a 1-1 draw at home to Kingfisher East Bengal.

New front man Koffi Mechac struck up a brilliant partnership with Peter Omoduemuke and delivered with a goal straight away. Alfred Fernandes, the head coach was only pleased with the way things were going.

“With the new reinforcements we seem sorted out and some the performances you have seen from the new players, we almost came out with three points against Kingfisher East Bengal and hopefully that was the start of a new beginning for us. The team is gelling up well with the quality foreign signings and the local boys”, he said on the eve of the game.

The Goan born remained confident of the win on Monday as he expressed: “When a team goes on the ground, they always aim for three points and that will be our aim.

“We have put in the hard yards on the training field and hopefully that should reflect on the field.

“After this we have some home games and three points here will give us the confidence in the home matches. Hopefully we will be on the winning side. The confidence level is very high now and motivated. Three points tomorrow will be a boost for the rest of 2018,” he added.

Goalkeeper James Kithan, the only Nagaland-born to be registered at a Hero I-League club this season has impressed under the stick and Nicholas Fernandes too will hope to recreate some early form he displayed last month.

Kalu Ogba will dictate things from the centre of the park but it will be upon the strikers and mostly the defenders to score and shut in the goals respectively.

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