For seven weeks, Ikhsan Fandi could not find his scoring touch as he watched his team slide into the Norwegian second-tier relegation dogfight with a wretched run of just one win in eight games.
The FK Jerv striker grew so frustrated that he shaved his head. But the 21-year-old showed up when his side needed him most on Sunday.
Coming off the bench in the second half against Stjordals-Blink, he unleashed a 90th-minute left-footed equaliser. The 1-1 draw was enough to avoid his club from entering the relegation play-offs against third-tier Asker.
Jerv finished the season 11th out of 16 teams with 35 points from 30 games, while Stjordals ended up 14th, two points back.
Ikhsan, who also struck the post in the game, said: “This is the 20th goal of my club career and the most important one yet. After the final whistle, we all got quite emotional and I cried all out.
“We were on a good run after I joined, and then we started playing the top teams and our results and goals dried up and we started having injuries and I was coping with a jumper’s knee too. It was tough. I cut my hair because I wasn’t scoring and wanted a fresh start.”
The goal was Ikhsan’s fifth for Jerv – he scored four in his first three starts – since he moved from Raufoss IL on Oct 5. It is also his 11th league goal in Europe, matching his father Fandi Ahmad’s tally with Dutch club Groningen from 1983 to 1985.
In his maiden European season, he scored five league goals for Raufoss in 1,154 minutes (26 games, 10 starts) and improved on his goals-per-minute ratio to five for Jerv in 809 minutes (14 games, nine starts).
Raufoss finished sixth to make the promotion playoffs but while Ikhsan will not be part of the action, he hopes for the best for his former club.
The Singapore international, who has eight goals in 18 appearances, added: “I’m really happy for the boys because they worked hard to be in this position. I have many close friends there like (defender) Emil Breivik and I want to see them do well.”
With the season going on a winter break, Ikhsan will fly home to serve the 14-day quarantine and spend time with his family before returning to Jerv next month. “Avoiding relegation is a big weight off my shoulders and now I just want to see my family, relax, before coming back stronger for next season,” he said.
Jerv coach Arne Sandsto is looking forward to calling upon Ikhsan as a key player next season.
He said: “When he came on yesterday, he was fresh and scored a good goal in the final minutes, and we hope he can keep the goals coming next season.”