The clash between Malaysia Hockey League (MHL) leaders Tenaga Nasional and Terengganu at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil will be a test of character for striker Mohd Akhimullah Anuar Esook.
Akhimullah, Tenaga’s top scorer, fired blanks against Maybank on Jan 15 but bounced back with two against Hockey Academy of Kuala Lumpur (Hockademy) two days later to make it a total of five so far in the league.One would think that he has found his mojo again, but the 19-year national player wants the game against Terengganu today to determine whether he has regained his goalscoring touch or not.
“A striker needs to be consistent. You cannot be scoring in one, and then misfire in another. I’m working hard to ensure that my conversion rate gets better, ” said Akhimullah, who made his debut for the country last year.
“Our preparation in the last three days have been about tempo and consistency. In some matches, I have missed several good chances, so that must now stop.
“Terengganu are one of the best teams in the league, and we cannot take them lightly. We must be focused and hardworking.”
In the last season, he scored only 10 goals and was criticised by many for being naive, but this season, Akhimullah is hell-bent on changing that script.
From a junior to being one of the vital cogs in the team, he is aware of the pressure placed upon him and would do whatever it takes to repay the faith of the Tenaga coaching staff.
“I have my weaknesses, but that does not mean that I will not change. In training, I am working hard to rectify them. Game-by-game, I am looking to improve.
“The seniors in the team like Kumar (S. Kumar, goalkeeper), midfielder Faiz (Helmi Jali) and Syafiq (Syed Mohamad Syafiq Syed Cholan, defender) are always there to guide me.
“My aim right is now to plunder goals every game and help the team achieve their target of winning a double.”
Meanwhile, coach Nor Saiful Zaini hoped his team would stay cautious against Terengganu, known for their good counter-attacking hockey. Their opponents also have experienced players, who can cause damage on their good day.
“They have the Saari brothers (Faizal and Fitri), and the energetic Korean duo (Jang Jong-hyun and Jung Man-jae). Terengganu can punish with their counters, and they have drag flickers like Jong-hyun and Faizal, ” said Saiful.
“We have to be focused on them. We cannot play to their tempo and strength.
“For me, if my players are strong enough to play this game, mentally and physically, then there will be a positive result.”
Tenaga are top of the league with 12 points after winning four of their matches, while Terengganu are third with nine points. However, Terengganu are the best attacking side in the league as they have scored 20 goals in four games.