With the second round of the BOV Challenge League in play, the 18 clubs will now be playing in two groups as the Top-Six, and Play-Out pools divide the teams at the business end of the season.
St Andrews missed out on a place among the top six teams but stand joint-second in the Play-Out pool with neighbours Swieqi United on 25 points, behind Fgura United who led the division throughout the opening stages and now lead the group despite the fact that all promotion hopes have faded.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Violets coach Brian Said admits his team’s target has always been to secure a place in the Top-Six pool. However, he believes his side will aim towards topping their group, after maintaining their status in the division.
“Our first target was to be part of the Top Six. We were close but we didn’t manage,” Said explained.
“Now we are in a situation where we must try to finish top of our playout group. Obviously, there are a lot of matches left, but that is our target.
“We’re also coming from an important win, a direct confrontation against Marsa, a game which we had lost at the end of the first round – that gives us a good platform on which to build.”
Following a 3-2 loss to Marsa at the beginning of January, St Andrews managed to get sporting revenge with a 2-0 victory on Saturday.
Asked about his side’s performance over the weekend, Said believes it was a positive outing.
“The performance was good but when you compare the previous match against them (Marsa), there wasn’t much difference in both teams – it was the different episodes that decided the game,” the former Malta international said.
“The players did well and the fact that it’s been a while since we’ve last held a clean sheet and this time we did, was important for our defence. We scored two, even if our last goal came late, and didn’t concede. This was significant as in my opinion, it was a positive result and performance.”
With the Top-Six pool surely being a safety net for clubs in the division, the 12 clubs remaining will have a fight on their hands as even the clubs considered small will be striving for survival, leaving no space for error.
“Survival is the target for all the teams, now that the format is as it is,” Said admitted.
“Our target will always be to maintain our status in the division but I’m the kind of person who tells his players that we have to look up instead of down. Right now, we are joint-second but know that with 10 games to go, everyone will be trying to stay up. In spite of this, we have to keep going forward to stay as high up as we can.
“Last year, we finished in fifth place of our group. After the season end, you have to work on building the squad
immediately. This year, this round will serve also as a platform for us to improve and build even though finishing first in the playout group means as much as finishing seventh with the old format.”
With the January transfer window nearing its end, Said explained that making moves in the market is tricky as there is no time for experimentation and players have to be ready upon signing.
“Only a few days remain (in the transfer window), and as a club, we are still looking at different options. This means that there may be additions to the squad,” he said.
“However, our idea is that whoever we bring on, needs to strengthen our squad. We are on the lookout if the opportunity arises, but we have to make sure we are strengthening the team. There has been a lot of activity among the teams but what we are looking for has to be a player who is ready to join the first 11 so to speak as we’ve only got 10 games left.”
TOP SIX POOL
Melita vs Tarxien Rainbows 0-0
Naxxar L. vs Żejtun C. 0-0
Sliema W. vs Zurrieq 5-0
Marsa vs St Andrews 0-2
San Gwann vs Vittoriosa S. 0-1
Swieqi Utd vs Fgura Utd 2-2
Mqabba vs Attard 1-0
Marsaskala vs Lija Athletic 1-3
Mtarfa vs Qrendi 0-1
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