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BOV Division One

Swieqi target top six as Owls stand three points away

Swieqi United and Senglea Athletic cancelled each other out last weekend. Photo: Matthew Mirabelli

Challenge League to divide into two in February

After four months of play in the BOV Challenge League, the winter break brings with it the calm before the storm for the 16 teams as their battle for qualification of the top six teams for a championship pool culminates in a tense finale in January.

At the end of the calendar year, Swieqi United, this season playing under the leadership of former Marsaxlokk coach Pablo Doffo, are 10 points off leaders Zabbar St Patrick in ninth place on 16 points from four wins and four draws in 11 matches.

However, while the gap between the two appears to be difficult to bridge, the margin between ninth place and the final spot in the top six of the standings – currently occupied by Marsa – is that of just three points which makes the last month of play an intense rumble for no less than three sides who are certainly within reach of that single spot.

One of Swieqi’s rivals for automatic safety is Senglea Athletic, whom Swieqi faced last weekend in a match that finished all square at 1-1 at the Victor Tedesco Stadium.

Asked about the match, Owls coach Doffo praised Senglea’s squad and called the draw a fair result.

“We knew that it was going to be a difficult game as Senglea, this season, have a good squad with many experienced players in the Challenge League,” he told the Times of Malta.

“They were coming from three victories and they are the second-best defence in the league.”

Senglea, who have just returned to the division after a troubled period in their club’s history which had seen them relegated to the Amateur League, currently stand in seventh place, had beaten Pieta’ Hotspurs, Zejtun Corinthians, and Zebbug Rangers ahead of a loss on penalties in the FA Trophy to the Hotspurs. On Saturday, they opened the score through Terrence Vella after 20 minutes. However, Doffo believes his players showed faith to react well, and in fact, they equalized right before the halftime break through Jamie Scerri.

“They started better than us in the first 15 minutes and after they scored our players reacted really well and the game was very balanced from that on,” the Argentine coach said.

“In the second half, we pushed harder and we had our chances but at the end, a draw was a fair result for both sides in my opinion.”

Main target

In his first season at the club as a replacement for Steve D’Amato who left for Premier League side Sirens, Doffo said reaching the top six was the team’s main target.

“I’m very happy and pleased with the performance of my players – everyone at the club is working so hard and we are three points away from the top six which is the main target for us this season,” he explained.

“January is going to be a very important month for us, and so, in this little break, it’s the time for our technical staff to analyse in detail the things that we did well and where we can improve to become a stronger team in the second part of the season.

“At the same time, statistics don’t lie. When you take into consideration that we are the third-best defence in the league and in five out of 11 games, we didn’t concede a goal, that’s something really good. In the meantime, we have scored 11 goals and in proportion to the chances that we are creating that’s an indication where we should have more options and work harder in order to be more competitive.”

RESULTS

Swieqi Utd vs Senglea Ath.            1-1

Zurrieq vs Zabbar SP          0-0

Msida SJ vs Marsa  2-0

Attard vs Lija Ath      2-3

Luqa SA vs St Andrews      2-2

Fgura Utd vs Melita 4-4

Tarxien R. vs Pieta H.         0-1

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