Double injury blow for desperate Dickies
Champions Instant-Dict's uphill fight to qualify for the championship phase of the Ericsson First Division took a cruel blow with the news that attacking midfielder Tim Bredbury and defensive midfielder Tim O'Shea are doubtful for tonight's clash against Sing Tao at Hong Kong Stadium.
Instant-Dict must win their remaining two first-phase matches to have any chance of retaining their title, but their prospects don't look too rosy at the moment.
Bredbury is still recovering from bruises sustained in the club's stormy 6-2 win against league leaders Happy Valley on February 11, while O'Shea suffered a groin injury in training three days ago.
The situation looks desperate for the champions, who are third from bottom with 15 points from 12 matches.
The champions must beat seventh-placed Sing Tao tonight and take full points off old rivals South China on Monday to strengthen their hopes of qualifying for the championship phase, which is reserved for the top four clubs.
To make matters worse, Bredbury and O'Shea face suspension for their red card offences in the club's ill-tempered match against Happy Valley.
The pair are likely to miss Instant's match against South China as the disciplinary committee is expected to hand out punishment for the offences tomorrow night.
Instant-Dict coach Khoo Liem Khen admitted his side faced a daunting task, knowing even a draw with Sing Tao would spell the end to their league challenge.
'We have two key players on the injury list and we haven't got too many players to replace them,' Khoo said.
'Quite honestly, it's going to be a very difficult game for us. We must win our two remaining matches. If we don't win against Sing Tao, well then it's over for us.' Khoo said the club would treat tonight's match as if it were a 'cup final'.
If Instant-Dict lose tonight, they will be put in the losers' pool for clubs battling to avoid relegation.
Instant's leagues hopes went horribly wrong when they lost three consecutive matches, starting with a 4-0 defeat by Yee Hope on January 24.
The champions then lost 1-0 to Golden before receiving another setback - this time a 2-0 defeat by Golden.
The club stormed back to break their losing sequence with a 6-2 win over Happy Valley in a game which saw five players sent off - three from Happy Valley.
Sing Tao will leave nothing to chance as they look to improve on their seventh-placing in the eight-team standings.
Veteran striker Anto Grabo is likely to play a wing-back role to help contain Instant's attack, which will be led by former Nottingham Forest striker Glyn Hodges.