HE was expected to be the Messiah to take Bantu to the Promised Land so two back-toback defeats were certainly not what headcoach Motlatsi Shale expected when he returned to his old club last month.
The Mafeteng giants were coming from a famous Independence Cup final victory over sworn enemies Lioli when Shale returned to the club he left under a cloud before the start of this season.
A legend at Bantu after leading A Matšo Matebele to their first premier league title in the 2013/14 season, Shale had to leave after management decided not to offer him a new contract.
However, an indifferent premier league campaign prompted his return to the team two weeks ago. Shale’s first match in charge resulted in a 1-0 loss against Sundawana, and the next was another 1-0 league defeat — this time to Kick4life last Sunday.
And as fate would have it, this weekend, Shale leads Bantu against nemesis Matlama at Leshoboro Stadium in a potentially explosive premiership tie, yet the hard-talking coach remains calm despite the looming Tse Putsoa storm.
“Things are not okay for us at the moment because we have lost two matches in a row, which is unacceptable,” Shale said this week.
“We have to fight in the remaining two matches of the first round of the season, starting with Saturday’s clash against Matlama. We need to win these matches to go to the break closer to the top of the table.”
Shale does not believe he returned to Ban- tu at the wrong time as the team was on a high after winning the Independence Cup.
“There is never a good time for a coach to take over and I don’t think that’s the problem here. Coaches come and go any time, and I think we can turn things around.
“We just have to put our hearts into it and work hard on the field of play because we need to be at the top of the table with the other big teams.
“Losing two successive matches since returning to this team has been a bitter pill to swallow for me, but like I said, we can get out of this situation.”
Matlama coach, Moses Maliehe, also told the Lesotho Times that last weekend’s 1-0 loss against title-rivals Lioli was a bitter pill to swallow.
However, Maliehe said there were many positives from his players that the narrow defeat had not been as debilitating as one would have expected. Lioli leapfrogged Matlama into top spot on the 14-team premiership table after the win and Maliehe wants to return to the summit by beating Bantu on Saturday.
“I was a bit surprised to see my players in high spirits when we started training this week and that was encouraging for me as a coach,” Maliehe said.
“I must admit it was also painful to lose to Lioli at the weekend and surrender top spot to them. We want to get back there on top again and that can only happen if we win against Bantu on Saturday; that is our priority as we speak.
“Our target is to end the year on a high note and a win over a big team like Bantu is always a bonus.
“The players have put the disappointment of losing to Lioli behind them and they want to go on the Christmas break with their spirits high.”
Maliehe also said Tse Putsoa would have to sign additional players during next month’s transfer window to augment their “thin” squad.
“We need a few more players to improve the squad and we will look for reinforcements during the January transfer window,” he said.
Meanwhile, table-topping Lioli travel to Quthing to face Liphakoe in another premier league match scheduled for Saturday.
Another win would improve Lioli’s chances of ending the year at the top of the table while Liphakoe are trying to move out of the relegation zone.
Saturday’s last premiership match sees Likhopo go head-to-head with LCS at LCS Ground.
The premier league has only arranged three matches this and next weekend for teams which had their fixtures postponed because they had more than three players away on national duty.
Second-round fixtures are expected to start on the second week of the New Year.
Fixtures Saturday: Liphakoe v Lioli (Quthing); Bantu v Matlama (Mafeteng); Likhopo v LCSLCS Ground.
Bantu MIDFIELDER BOSIUOA BOSEKA (FRONT LEFT) tussles FOR THE BALL with MATLAMA DEFENDER TŠELISO RAMATHE IN this file PIC.