SHAH ALAM: Pahang coach Dollah Salleh attempted to down play his side's chances of winning the FA Cup final against Kedah on Saturday by claiming his players do not possess the experience of their opponents.
While Kedah will be making the trip to the Shah Alam Stadium for a third major final in as many years, Pahang bid to win a trophy for the first time since 2014, when they won an FA Cup-Malaysia Cup double.
Dollah only returned to helm Pahang after an underwhelming experience with Premier League side Perlis last year before beginning the job to rebuild a team which flirted with relegation in 2016.
Integrating so many new players has been a challenge for Dollah, reflected in their inconsistent displays in the Super League where they are trailing leaders Johor Darul Ta'zim by six points.
"Pahang are a team which was put together just five months ago and our performances have been up and down," said Dollah at the Shah Alam Stadium on Friday.
"Most of the players lack the experience of playing in major finals but I believe we are capable of achieving something this season.
"The players have the ability to play at the highest levels even though many are still young. If we are strong mentally we can give a strong performance against Kedah."
Dollah's contention that he has a young side is not borne out of fact with only Matthew Davies and Nor Azam Azih, both 22, and 24-year-old striker Matheus Alves under 25 years of age among the regular starters.
In terms of experience, Ahmad Syamim Yahya, Wan Zaharulnizam Wan Zakaria, Ashaari Samsudin, Joseph Kalang Tie, Christie Jayaseelan and Ahmad Nordin Alias have all either won or played in major finals.
Kedah in turn, while regular visitors to finals in recent years, have a novice head coach in Nidzam Adzha Yusoff, in charge of just three matches after Tan Cheng Hoe left to take up the national assistant coach's post.
"The morale in the team is high even if the coach has changed," said Kedah captain Khairul Helmi Johari. "We have worked hard to get to the final.
"It won't be an easy game even though we beat Pahang 4-1 earlier this year. But a lot of team had not settled down at the start of the season so we can't expect to win as easily again.
"We will have to stay focused and disciplined on the pitch and follow the coach's instructions."
Pahang have the option of playing new signing Yamil Romero in the final while three-time FA Cup winners Kedah have centre-back Zachary Anderson available after the Australian missed their last two games with a hip injury.