Fenech sees future as Marsa coach
The final stages of this season’s Challenge League are right around the corner. With seven matches to go, teams in the Top Six, with safety secured for next season, will all have one aim in mind – promotion. The rest will also have one aim, albeit completely different.
Newly promoted side Marsaskala have struggled in their first season in the division. They stand in 10th place of the Playout Pool but coach Brian Vella believes that consecutive wins could propel his side away from relegation, particularly when they follow closest rivals San Gwann by as little as a point, Qrendi and Mqabba by two. They showed their grit with a 3-1 win over fifth-place Marsa over the weekend.
“The win last weekend against Marsa was vital. Only a win could keep us believing in maintaining our status in the Challenge League,” Vella told the Times of Malta.
“I believe we put in a good performance and created the most chances. We even managed to score within the opening minutes so the team believed we could do it.
“Marsa are always a tough opponent. They have experienced players and made good signings in January as well. But I believe we were better than them and deserved the three points.”
At the other end, Marsa, who are just a point above sixth place Attard – the final safety spot in the Pool, will see this loss as a disappointment. Player-coach Ryan Fenech, who took over in place of Ivan Casha for his first match in charge, believes the disappointment is mostly towards the result rather than the performance of his team.
“Unfortunately, before the Marsaskala match, there was a change in coaching again, so we didn’t have much time to prepare. Then again, this is no excuse for the loss,” Fenech said.
“We tried a system where I thought we should match their formation. After all the bad weather which lead to less time to train, I have to take the blame and say that playing such a formation was too risky.
“We’re disappointed with the result, much less with the performance as our reaction in both halves was good. I think we scored too late so our time to recover was limited.”
Each remaining point will be crucial for the two sides as time goes by and of course, both coaches echoed each other in saying that getting as many wins as possible will be their main target.
“It’s not easy to counter the pressure when every game will be a final where we must take points. But as a club, we try to keep that pressure off our players as we know we’re capable to contest every game,” Vella said.
Building the club from the ground up
“After a three-year plan, Marsaskala has made it into the Challenge League for the first time. Now we have seven matches left and our aim is the get as many points from them. It won’t be easy as many teams are of the same level, but I believe that two consecutive wins could push up to safety.”
Fenech’s side has gone through turmoil on and off the pitch since being denied their promotion during COVID-19, but they have found solace in its new administration which is focused on building the club back up.
Asked about the situation at the club, Fenech admits the players are aware of the pressure ahead and the most important thing at the moment is to keep them united.
“We were lucky that the teams below us (bar Attard) all dropped points last weekend so are still six points ahead of the first team that drops so that was a plus,” Fenech said.
“We are at a delicate time, where we can’t afford to drop points. That said, I still think the most important thing is that we keep the group together and make everyone involved feel important to our cause.”
The former Malta international stepped up to the coaching role with the plan to make the shift when the time comes for him to retire from his playing career comes, a time which Fenech revealed could be at the end of this season.
“My plan is to retire at the end of the season. I’m not 100% yet but that is what I’m thinking,” Fenech said.
“My aim is to be a Challenge League coach next season. Marsa have already approached me to stay here as the coach for the next year or two. I have a very good relationship with the club, especially after what we’ve been through last year. Marsa are also close to getting their own pitch so we would try to build the club from the ground up.
“But my first goal is to help the club achieve safety this season, as quickly as possible.”
Marsaskala vs Marsa 3-1
St Andrews vs San Gwann 1-1
Qrendi vs Vittoriosa S. 2-2
Attard vs Swieqi Utd 3-0
Fgura Utd vs Mtarfa 1-1
Lija A. vs Mqabba 3-2
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