IMPHAL: In a bid to bolster their squad for the final few games, I-League contenders Neroca FC are on the verge of signing Australian attacking midfielder Nick Ward, with Kyrgyzstani left winger Akhlidin Israilov set to be released.
It has been learnt from reliable sources close to the development that Neroca, placed second in the points table, want a forward so that their push for the title does not fade away.
Surprise league leaders Minerva Punjab FC are two points ahead of them, having played a game less.
"He will play the last two-three matches so that Neroca can still fight for the title. Since every match is so crucial now, Neroca management wants to give their all," an official told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"The mutual termination has been signed with the player (Israilov) and he will be leaving the club on February 15 after the Churchill Brothers (February 14) match," he added.
The transfer window here is from January 16 till February 15.
Israilov has not impressed for the Manipur-based side since joining them at the start of the season, starting in eight games for the Gift Raikhan-coached side.
Ward, on the other hand, will be joining Neroca from National Premier Leagues Victoria side Bentleigh Greens.
The A-League winner with Melbourne Victory had an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear in 2015 when he signed for Western Sydney Wanderers.
Ward has represented Australia at the U-20 and U-23 level.
"We need a striker who can score the goals. If you ask me one weakness we have, I would say we have missed a lot of chances," Raikhan told IANS on the eve of their tie against struggling defending champions Aizawl FC.
After the Churchill game, Neroca will host Mohun Bagan at home on February 18 followed by East Bengal away on February 27 which will be their final game of the campaign.
"I don't know whether we will win the league or not. But we are doing everything in our power to ensure we don't give up. We are fighting for the title and we want to make Manipur people happy," Raikhan said.
"Our first goal was to finish in the top-four and ensure a spot in the Super Cup. Now that we are close to winning the title and there are good chances, we don't want to let it go away. We are trying everything we can to achieve our goal," Neroca owner Naoba Thangjam told IANS without wanting to confirm or deny the signing of Ward.
Neroca already have Liberian defender Varney Kallon, Haitian midfielder Fabien Vorbe, Bosnian attacking midfielder Nedo Turkovic, Nigerian striker Felix Chidi and injured Australian defender Aryn Williams in their foreigners' list.