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 By Kenneth Tan

Philippe Aw bemoans lack of goals in Hougang's disappointing season

Hougang United boss Philippe Aw was critical of his side's failings in front of goal as he looked ahead to the 2018 season after an unfulfilled campaign.

The Cheetahs ended the season with a 1-0 defeat to rivals Home United in the rescheduled Singapore Cup third place playoff on Sunday night.

It marked the end of a largely disappointing season for Hougang, who finished sixth out of nine teams in the S.League, and failed to achieve their preseason objective of winning at least a trophy.

A key factor was their struggles in hitting the back of the net, having scored just 24 goals in 24 league matches this season. Only third-from-bottom Balestier Khalsa and wooden spoonists Garena Young Lions registered fewer goals.

They failed to adequately replace last season's top scorer Stipe Plazibat (16 goals), with Spanish replacement Pablo Rodriguez mustering just seven -- with only two coming in the S.League.

"It was a disappointing end to the season," Aw said. "We didn't achieve what we wanted to although we could do the general stuff well. We have struggled to score goals season long and if you don't score, you don't win games -- it's as simple as that.

"Our final pass lacking and we had a clear chance which we didn't finish. Home, on the other hand, showed hunger in wanting to play and we didn't manage to match them. Defensively, we were not tracking the runners; Amiruldin [Asraf] and Stipe was causing some problems for us."

On the other hand, Home coach Aidil Sharin was pleased that his side secured third place in the Singapore Cup in the absence of first teamers like Hassan Sunny, Irfan Fandi, Izzdin Shafiq, Faris Ramli and Hariss Harun.

Hassan was away on pilgrimage, while Izzdin and Faris had already gone on holidays.

"The boys played very well. We dominated the game and in fact, the scoreline could have been more than 1-0," the former national midfielder said. "But I'm pleased with the boys who came in for my regulars who couldn't play today - they gave their maximum effort for the full 90 minutes.

Ending the season with another 2nd runners up! Well done TEAM!!! #HUFCCLASSOF2017

A post shared by Home United ™ (@homeunited_fc) on

"My young players like Adam, Amiruldin and Irfan have performed whenever called upon this season. They are also getting better and Amiruldin even managed to score the winning goal which is good to see.

"Juma'at [Jantan] had a superb game in central defence. He guided the backline well alongside Haziq Azman and is a good leader of the team."

Albirex Niigata (S) clinched a third straight Singapore Cup on Saturday by defeating Philippines invitees Global-Cebu FC 3-1 on penalties after a 2-2 draw in 120 minutes.

Kenneth Tan is a Singapore-based football writer on S.League and AFC Cup for ESPN FC and FourFourTwo. Twitter: @KennerveT

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