Hougang's Ridhuan Barudin out to avenge worst S.League defeat of the season
A rejuvenated Hougang United will be out on a revenge mission when they take on Home United at the Jalan Besar Stadium on Thursday evening.
The last time the two sides met in the Great Eastern-Yeo's S.League, Hougang was walloped 4-0 at Yishun in what was their heaviest defeat of the season. A game which still sticks vividly in goalkeeper Ridhuan Barudin's mind.
"Yes, of course this game still gives me bad memories," he told ESPN FC. "30 minutes into the game, we were already 3-0 down so obviously coach Salim (Moin) was really angry with us. That was definitely our worst result of the season so far."
Things have changed dramatically since that game, with Hougang bringing in four new foreign players during the mid-season transfer window. A shrewd move, that has paid dividends for Salim's side. In particular Serbian hotshot Vuk Sotirovic has already found the net four times in the league, while Brazilian counterpart Diego Gama has a league goal to show for in his third spell with the club.
After losing six out of the opening 11 league matches, they have since lost just twice out of their last seven. The good run of form has seen them move up from the foot of the table to eighth position, just five points behind sixth-placed Home.
"I think changing the four foreigners really made a difference for us," said Ridhuan. "The midfielders Carlos (Delgado) and (Atsushi) Shimono helped us to stabilize the midfield, while the two strikers Vuk and Diego are really clinical upfront."
On a personal note, it has been a pleasant year for Ridhuan. The 28-year-old staved off the challenge of fellow custodians Basil Chan and Ahmadulhaq Che Omar to be the undisputed first-choice stopper between the sticks for Hougang, starting a total of 19 games in all competitions.
"It's important to be a regular in the team," he explained. "The last time I played so much football was with Tanjong Pagar United back in 2011.
"Slowly game by game, I've improved and became more confident. It's good that Basil and Ahmad are here to provide good competition and they really push me to work harder. I need to be on my toes in order to stay in the first 11.
"Also the centre-back partnership of Tengku (Mushadad) and Kuni (Kunihiro Yamashita) has been really solid, that makes my life between the sticks so much easier. "
However Ridhuan believes there is still room for improvement ahead of the tough encounter against Home, who have not lost in their last nine matches in all competitions.
Against Albirex three weeks ago, the Cheetahs were on the road to a 1-0 victory until a deflected Itsuki Yamada volley in the final minute of regulation time.
"Of course it was really disappointing to concede so late in the game," he lamented. "For that goal, I could not really see the ball because it came at me from point-blank range. If the ball had not gotten a deflection, maybe I would have stopped it.
"It could have been our second successive win in the league but now we have to move on and try to get a good result against Home. We need to collect as many points as possible in this third round and hopefully close the gap between us and the top six."
Hougang United Probable Lineup: Ridhuan Barudin (GK), Delwinder Singh, Tengku Mushadad, Kunihiro Yamashita, Lau Meng Meng, Nurhilmi Jasni (C), Carlos Delgado, Atsushi Shimono, Fairoz Hasan, Vuk Sotirovic, Diego Gama
Home United Probable Lineup: Shahril Jantan (GK), Ang Zhiwei, Abdil Qaiyyim, Shahrin Saberin, Juma'at Jantan (C), Imran Sahib, Yasir Hanapi, Song Uiyong, Azhar Sairudin, Kamel Ramdani, Ken Ilso