JOHOR FC overcame the odds not only to stay alive in the Super League but also qualify for the Malaysia Cup -- picking up steam towards the tailend of the league to finish ninth of 14 teams.
It's a creditable performance for a team who were at one time facing relegation to the Premier League after languishing at the bottom of the league table for a major part of the season.
Johor FC's poor run was due to a long injury list, including seven from the first team (not counting those suspended) and those who requested for leave to sort out personal matters.
A 1-0 win over LionsXII at the Jalan Besar Stadium in Singapore in their last match on the last day of the league fixtures on July 14 could not have come at a better time for the Johor club.
Full points saw Johor FC bunched on 35 points with PKNS FC (7th), T-Team (8th), and Felda United (10th) -- separated only by goal difference.
"We had a very bad season in the league. But all that takes a back seat now as we switch our focus to the Malaysia Cup," said team manager Wan Nizam Wan Omar of his team who are drawn in Group A with LionsXII, PKNS FC and Johor.
"It is a different ball game. The players are determined to make up for the disappointing season in the FA Cup and the league."
In the FA Cup, Johor FC were knocked out by Premier League debutants Sime Darby FC in the quarter-finals.
For the Malaysia Cup, Johor FC have hired two players on loan to beef up the squad -- midfielder Mohd Akmal Mohd Noor from USM and Aizulridwan Razali (leftback) from Pos Malaysia.
Coach Sazali Saidon said he has faith in the players although some of the seniors may not be able to see Malaysia Cup action because of injuries.
Striker Zamri Chin and defender Safizan Hashim are definitely out, while Eddy Helmi Abdul Manan, Khairi Kiman and Fauzi Saari are on the road to recovery but have yet to start training with the team.
Last year, Johor FC were denied a historic place in the Malaysia Cup final when they were beaten by Negri Sembilan in the semi-finals.
Johor FC open their Malaysia Cup campaign with a home match against LionsXII at the Pasir Gudang Stadium on Aug 22 before playing big brother Johor at the Larkin Stadium on Aug 25. They complete their first-round fixtures with an away match against PKNS FC on Aug 28. By J.J. Shah