Bat­tle for Venda gains mo­men­tum

TTM and Black Leop­ards are work­ing hard

African Times - - Front Page - MASHUDU SADIKE

BLACK Leop­ards have so far eclipsed their home ri­vals Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila to the sec­ond spot on the Na­tional First Divi­sion (NFD) log stand­ings, mak­ing them the fa­vorites to earn a play-off berth as the league ap­proaches its fi­nal stages.

But it’s not over yet for fifth placed TTM. If both Leop­ards and TTM col­lect max­i­mum points in their re­main­ing matches, then Venda could have two teams vy­ing for a spot in the elite PSL league via the pro­mo­tional/rel­e­ga­tion play-offs.

This may be good for the foot­ball mad fans in the area who have been starved of big time soc­cer since Leop­ards were rel­e­gated from the elite league.

TTM who have shown prom­ise by lead­ing Leop­ards in the stand­ings for most of the sea­son now have it all to do in their re­main­ing games in­clud­ing the must-win en­counter at home against run­away log lead­ers High­lands Park next week­end.

Both clubs en­joy a huge fol­low­ing in Venda and use the Tho­hoyan­dou sta­dium which is of­ten packed to the rafters for their home games.

Leop­ards coach Joel Ma­sutha now has the un­en­vi­able task of en­sur­ing his team re­tain their sec­ond spot which they earned af­ter they beat pro­mo­tional hope­fuls Real Kings last week­end. The 2-1 vic­tory took Leop­ards to sec­ond spot on the NFD log.

Leop­ards are reap­ing the re­wards of hav­ing been pa­tient with Ma­sutha, who they have stuck with this sea­son. He has so far shown to be just as knowl­edge­able and pas­sion­ate about the game from the bench.

Be­fore Sun­day’s NFD match against Kings, Ma­sutha had hinted that Leop­ards might go down to KwaZulu Natal with his team to cause an up­set.

This sug­ges­tion be­came re­al­ity when Li­doda Du­vha ran the Kings ragged to pocket full points in the NFD match at King Good­will Zwelithini Sta­dium.

Leop­ards started the sec­ond half of the 2017/2018 sea­son in the bot­tom half of the ta­ble and won 3 con­sec­u­tive games in the be­gin­ning of the year.

The win on Sun­day saw them rise up to sec­ond place on the NFD league log.

They are tied on 38 points with Kings but en­joy a su­pe­rior goal dif­fer­ence.

This puts them in a bet­ter po­si­tion of qual­i­fy­ing for the end-of-sea­son pro­mo­tional/rel­e­ga­tion play offs.

The club’s spokesper­son Berry Ra­munenyiwa is not only con­fi­dent that the side will qual­ify and be one of the teams that will be com­pet­ing in the play-offs but also be­lieves that they will gain pro­mo­tion into the ABSA Premier League next sea­son.

“We are con­fi­dent that Black Leop­ards will be in the play-offs and gain pro­mo­tion this sea­son. Pro­mo­tion has eluded us in the pre­vi­ous years but not this time,” Ra­munenyiwa said.

Leop­ards’ ri­vals from Venda, fifth placed Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila missed out on an opportunity to move to sec­ond place of the ta­ble when they were beaten 2-1 by rel­e­ga­tion threat­ened Richards Bay last week.

TTM’s de­feat was good for Leop­ards as they now com­pete for the sec­ond spot on the NFD ta­ble be­hind log lead­ers High­lands Park, who have a 15-point lead at the top.

“We should not look at other teams.

“TTM’s loss would have amounted to noth­ing if we had lost the game against Royal Kings. We must con­cen­trate on us and win our own games,” said Ma­sutha.

Li­doda Du­vha have con­ceded only one goal in five matches.

This was con­ceded dur­ing their vic­tory against Kings last Sun­day.

They have also won three games in a row and will be look­ing to en­hance their chances of win­ning pro­mo­tion by beat­ing 10th po­si­tioned Stel­len­bosch FC at home in Tho­hoyan­dou in their next fix­ture.

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