There are no doubts in coach Vlado Jagodić's mind that his FK Borac Banja Luka side can win a first Bosnian title this season even with the loss of three key men during the winter break.
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The belief is still with FK Borac Banja Luka after victory in their first game back after the winter break maintained their bid for a maiden Bosnian-Herzegovinian title – and helped shake off a period of upheaval.
Borac resumed their First League campaign on Sunday, winning 2-1 at NK Široki Brijeg to retain a five-point lead at the top of the table, and avenge a home defeat by the same opponents on the first day of term. "This victory at Pecara Stadium means a lot to us," said coach Vlado Jagodić. "We've kept our lead intact by beating one of our direct rivals for the championship."
In a tight game that was locked at 1-1, Srdjan Grahovac struck with ten minutes left to earn victory and keep second-placed FK Željezničar, who also won, at arm's length. Title holders Željezničar will provide Borac's main challenge according to Jagodić – although the coach is hopeful it is his charges who will lift the trophy come May.
"I think it will be tight race between Borac and Željezničar again, only this time we will cross the finish line first," added Jagodić, whose side came third last season. "But the spring campaign has only just begun. We expect a tough fight."
Despite never being champions, Borac do hold a unique honour for a club from Bosnia and Herzegovina – as the country's only team to have landed a national cup in two states. In 1988, they beat FK Crvena zvezda 1-0 to take the Yugoslavian Cup before picking up their first Bosnian Cup last term over two legs against Željezničar.
The success at Široki Brijeg also showed that Borac – literally 'fighter' – appear to have shrugged off the midwinter loss of three key players: Macedonian midfielder Perica Stanceski joined Željezničar while defensive duo Vule Trivunović and Bojan Puzigaća left for MKS Cracovia Kraków in Poland.
However, Jagodić did manage to recruit former Bosnian international Branislav Krunić, and the coach is confident the club can break their title duck in 2011. "Although we started the spring in a weakened state, there's never been a time when we thought we won't triumph in our fight for top spot," he added.