Fifth place Żurrieq beat St Andrews on Saturday
Last season, newly promoted Żurrieq FC shocked the BOV Challenge League as they secured their status in the second tier as early as possible by filling the final top six spot of the table before the teams were divided midway through the league campaign.
This season, after a summer of changes within the club including that of its coaching staff, Żurrieq had a dream start as they won their first four matches, with their opening fixture ending in a statement 5-0 victory over Żebbug Rangers who had just been relegated from the BOV Premier League.
Despite this, the next four matches were what coach Saviour Debono Grech referred to as ‘turbulent times’ for the club as they conceded 11 goals and scored just two in three defeats and a draw. This run however found its end on Saturday against penultimate placed St Andrews when Ivan Francisco scored a hattrick to counter goals from Liam Scicluna and Roderick Taliana to secure a precious win.
“We had a good performance (on Saturday). The team responded well to the instructions and what we worked on during the week,” Żurrieq coach Debono Grech told the Times of Malta.
“We have a relatively new team with a young average age that needs moulding so sometimes one will go through fluctuations in performance. We had a very good period in the beginning, and turbulent times recently but we’re getting back to speed again.”
Asked about the tough four matches preceding the St Andrews win, the former Melita coach emphasised that it was expected considering that teams hadn’t expected them to pose such a threat so early in the season.
“The four games we played were against teams well-established in the division, so you’d expect tough games,” Debono Grech said.
“Credit to our opponents for their victories but at the same time, the team is comprised of a youth element and even after that fact, I still believe we didn’t have bad performances in those games. In the Melita game, we hit the post within minutes, against Lija we missed a penalty – all of these could have changed the outcome of the matches.
“This is football and if you don’t score, you’ll probably concede because the league is so balanced. Bar some results like the Żebbug match, all the results were quite close. Then again, I doubt other teams expected us to take 12 points in four matches but those are points we worked hard for.”
Securing their status
Following that four-game setback, Żurrieq are now in fifth place in the standings, safe among the top six were the league be divided today. However, with Pieta` Hotspurs and Senglea Athletic just a point below, winning as many points as possible will be crucial for the side to remain in contention for automatic safety.
Speaking about the team’s current target, Debono Grech explained that first and foremost, Żurrieq’s goal is to secure their status in any way possible.
“Each game is important now and our target is to secure ourselves within the division,” he said.
“Obviously, if we make it to the top six, our goal will be achieved much earlier but the teams in the league are very close and each game can turn the table upside down.
“Each team is very prepared, and we must respect our opponents. However, what I’m sure of is that no coach in the division can say he’s got his mind at ease that his team is safe or confirmed for the top six or promotion yet. One can play against one of the lower-placed sides and struggle, as has already happened so far.
“I believe that the balance among the teams in the division is much more than last year.”
After the win on Saturday, Żurrieq face Luqa St. Andrew’s next on Saturday.
Luqa, another team that managed to stay in the Challenge League last season after their promotion from the Amateur League, have had a mixed opening to their season with two wins, a draw and four losses so far. They are also coming off a 3-1 defeat to leaders Żabbar St Patrick.
While Luqa sit in 12th place after nine matches, with the same number of points, Debono Grech assured it will not be an easy game.
“We are working on this next game like we always do, specifically focusing on Luqa,” he explained.
“Luqa are a team that has had good performances so far so I’m sure it won’t be an easy game for any of us – naturally the points are vital, so we’ll be looking for the win.”
Luqa SA vs Żabbar SP 1-3
St Andrews vs Żurrieq 2-3
Fgura Utd vs Lija A. 3-0
Melita vs Attard 1-0
Tarxien R. vs Marsa 3-3
Pieta` H. vs Msida SJ 1-0
Senglea A. vs Zejtun C. 2-0
Swieqi Utd vs Żebbug R. 0-1
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