NFD’s top-vs­bot­tom bat­tle

CityPress - - Sport - DANIEL MOTHOWAGAE dmoth­owa­gae@city­press.co.za

To­day’s Na­tional First Divi­sion (NFD) fix­ture be­tween Baroka FC and Moroka Swal­lows is a glar­ing mis­match.

NFD top scorer Thabiso Ku­tumela has scored more goals than the Swal­lows team com­bined.

The Baroka FC tal­is­man has net­ted 14 times half­way into the cam­paign, four more than Swal­lows’ to­tal tally in 16 league matches.

Baroka – with 33 goals scored and 13 con­ceded – boast a +20 goal dif­fer­ence, while bot­tom-placed Swal­lows are sit­ting on mi­nus 20, hav­ing scored 10 and let in 30.

Th­ese stats make the clash at the Old Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium seem one-sided, at least on pa­per, even be­fore a ball is kicked this af­ter­noon.

The two sides first met in an of­fi­cial match dur­ing the 2011 Ned­bank Cup last 16, where Baroka pulled off a gi­ant-killing act against the then fan­cied Swal­lows.

Bak­gaga ba ga Mphahlele to their fol­low­ers, Baroka thrive on Ku­tumela’s con­sis­tency in front of goal and an un­beaten run at home, where the team en­joy good sup­port.

And if it’s not Ku­tumela, Nkosi­nathi Ndlovu has also de­liv­ered in the at­tack. The lat­ter has seven league goals, plac­ing him joint se­cond in the charts.

The Birds’ prob­lems on the pitch are ex­ac­er­bated by the club’s cash flow prob­lems, which has left coach Ian Gorowa with the task of guid­ing a group of play­ers in dis­tress over un­paid salaries.

Baroka’s coach, Kgoloko Thobe­jane, warned that his team would not be fooled by the prob­lems be­set­ting Swal­lows.

“Their re­sult [2-1 loss] against AmaZulu last week­end in­di­cates some form of im­prove­ment in the Swal­lows de­fence. Strug­gling sides are of­ten dif­fi­cult to crack be­cause they sit at the back, and Swal­lows are likely to do the same against us,” said Thobe­jane.

Baroka won the first-round en­counter 3-0 at Dob­sonville in Oc­to­ber.

The NFD has turned into an ex­cit­ing and close com­pe­ti­tion. Baroka’s sta­tus as run­away lead­ers will be put to test in the next two months. They face Black Leop­ards, Cape Town All Stars, High­lands Park and AmaZulu – all still in with a chance at au­to­matic pro­mo­tion or a spot in the pro­mo­tion play-offs.

On the flip side, the Birds are to face other teams in the rel­e­ga­tion zone. They play 15th­placed Mthatha Bucks on Fe­bru­ary 13 and African War­riors (13th) on Fe­bru­ary 20.

In to­day’s other NFD fix­tures, AmaZulu will host FC Cape Town at Princess Ma­gogo Sta­dium in Um­lazi town­ship, Dur­ban.

Rook­ies Mbombela United take on Black Leop­ards at KaNya­mazane Sta­dium in Mpumalanga.

All matches kick off at 3.30pm.

PHOTO: SA­MUEL SHIVAMBU / BACKPAGEPIX

POR­OUS Swal­lows goalie Aubrey Mathibe has strug­gled to keep clean sheets

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