Imphal: Unbeaten in their last nine games after the 1-2 defeat to Minerva Punjab on their season opener, Neroca FC has been on a roll in the 11th I-League this season.
After 10 rounds of games and in only their debut season in the top-tier, the Manipur club is second in the table standings on 21 points with six wins, three draws and a loss, one behind Minerva Punjab who have played a game less. They can jump to the pole position if they beat Shillong Lajong at home on Wednesday.
But for a team that starts with four home grown players that becomes five with the inclusion of goalkeeper and captain Lalit Thapa, currently out with an injury, this team from Manipur has surprised many with their performance and shown that modest menas are no impediments to dreaming big.
“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 head coach Gift Raikhan, another name that stands as an example to the club’s homegrown stature.
Unlike Lajong who have been iffy upfront and are second in the least no of goals scored just above Gokulam who has amassed a goal less, Neroca has plunderd 14 in 10 games. Lajong on fifth has managed just seven goals in 11 fixtures.
That Neroca has always managed to score last minute goals — they have scored six in the last 15 minutes — has helped them grind out wins and Lajong assitant Alison Kharsyntiew agreed it will indeed ‘going to be a very tough match.’
It was Subhash Singh’s 83rd minute goal that separated the two sides when they met in December and although Lajong will look to avenge the defeat their inability to convert the chances have hurt them in their 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.