The final stages of last season’s BOV Challenge League brought to light an exciting battle for promotion in the two groups of teams taking part. Group A saw a three-way affair between Pembroke Athleta, Marsaxlokk, and Żejtun Corinthians all in contention for a spot in this season’s Premier League.
Pembroke went on to win the group, losing to Żebbug Rangers in the playoff final, but financial trouble for the former meant they would go on to forfeit their place among the top echelons of Maltese football.
Instead of promoting the next in line – which were Żejtun – Santa Lucia retained their place in the Premier League, despite having been relegated, and Marsaxlokk were the only Group A team to make it.
This season, Orosco Anonam’s Corinthians are looking at redemption, and have had a strong start to the league with eight wins in 10 matches. They stand second to Sliema Wanderers, just four points apart.
Speaking to the Times of Malta, Anonam sounded his belief in his players, whom he says have put in a good shift despite suffering two losses along the way.
“I’m pleased with the players and what they are doing,” Anonam said.
“We had two matches where even though we played well, with little mistakes that happened in the game, we dropped points. But the players recharged their batteries and they kept on putting good performances until now.
“We are looking forward to our next game against Lija (Athletic) which is not going to be an easy game. Lija is a good team.”
Heading into their upcoming fixture against seventh-placed Lija on Saturday, the Corinthians coach said it should be an exciting match.
“I’m expecting nothing but a win from my team,” he admitted, “It won’t be easy because Lija are strong upfront, but our players can take care of this. With how the players are doing now and the confidence they have, I expect it to be a top game and I’m confident that our boys can do a good job.”
Asked about last season’s woes and what they meant to Żejtun, Anonam admitted it was hard to accept losing out on a place with such close margins.
“Last season is in the past now but it hurt a lot – if you miss promotion with five points, you would say that maybe something was wrong but when you lose it with just a point, and against teams which are good as well, it is harder,” he said.
“Pembroke had a good season, as did Marsaxlokk, but still I still give credit to my players. When they are doing their job and their utmost and you know that the players are trying – ultimately, football is about win, lose or draw – you have to accept it.”
With the fight for a Championship pool in full swing, Żejtun’s coach believes his team is capable of making it. However, he voiced his issue with the timeline of the season and urged the sport’s governing body to address congestion.
“The congestion of the league affects a lot of things but I believe my players will take care of the remaining games and we can put ourselves in the championship pool positions which is where we then have to go back to the drawing board and see how to approach the games and make sure of our goal which is going up to the premier league,” Anonam explained.
“This year there are a lot of good teams in the division, which is good for Maltese football, but we are also a good team and we are capable of challenging them. I’m not worried about my players because I believe we have the players to do the job.
“(The Championship pool format) makes the league competitive and it forces you to make sure you have the first 12 good games as every game is like a final and every game can decide the league.
“You measure your level and how your team can operate in big games – big games call for big players.
“The only issue I have is with the timeline of the league – the fact that a team in Malta plays three or four games in 11 days, which is not normal. The condition of the players is not the same as abroad so this is something we must look into because this is where the challenge is.”
Mqabba vs San Gwann 2-3
Fgura Utd vs Naxxar L. 2-3
Attard vs Mtarfa 3-1
St. Andrews vs Marsaskala 2-2
Sliema W. vs Zurrieq 3-0
Żejtun C. vs Melita 3-0
Vittoriosa S. vs Tarxien R. 0-2
Qrendi vs Lija A. 3-3
Marsa vs Swieqi Utd 2-0
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