Fresh off the club's biggest-ever home win, a 5-0 battering of Kumamoto, FC Tokyo head down to Kyushu for the third time in eight weeks tomorrow, to face the surprise of the J2 season, fifth-placed Kitakyushu. The second-year club have shocked the world (well, maybe not quite) with their dogged performances thus far, and after 17 games sit in fifth, having almost doubled their points tally from their debut season (27 pts in '11 compared to 15 in all of '10).
This is the first game of a run of four of five away for The Gasmen, a potentially crucial period of the season that will take us beyond the halfway mark, and if we can tread water and at least stay in the top three during this stretch then our promotion push will be set up nicely.
We have the chance to break or match a couple of club records in this game:
- Consecutive league clean sheets - we equalled this mark (five, set in both 1999 & 2003) against Kumamoto, so Hitoshi Shiota will set a new record with another clean sheet here;
- Longest in-season league unbeaten run - we will match the longest run in club history with a win or draw, the record was set in the final 12 games of 2005.
|No change (surprise, surprise!)|
So how have Kitakyushu been able to climb all the way up to fifth? Two pretty simple reasons (I'm loving the bullet-points today):
- A much-improved defence - after just five clean sheets in the whole of 2010, Kitakyushu have eight already this season through 17 games. Yuya Sato came in from Sapporo and has played every game between the sticks since Matchday 2.
- Beating the dregs of the league - they've managed eight wins so far, and only one of them is against a current top half team (Ehime, who are 10th). If you ignore the fact that they've lost twice to Okayama, who are 16th (please do, as my point goes down the drain if you don't!), they've beaten seven of the bottom half teams.