Baroka close in on cam­paign mile­stone

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

A win or a draw for Baroka FC to­day will see the Na­tional First Divi­sion (NFD) run­away lead­ers close in on an ad­mirable record.

The Lim­popo-based side host FC Cape Town at the Old Peter Mok­aba Sta­dium in Polok­wane this af­ter­noon in a game that could al­low Baroka to reach the 40-point mark in the league ta­ble.

This feat could set them up to achieve the high­est cham­pi­onship-win­ning points haul in the his­tory of the NFD ( see box).

There is still a long way to go be­fore the end of the NFD sea­son, but Baroka should eas­ily get to at least 50 points, but some­where around 60 is a more likely re­ward from their re­main­ing 12 league fix­tures. They are not only well on course for au­to­matic pro­mo­tion at the end of the sea­son, but to do it in style.

Fifty is the bench­mark that has clinched pre­vi­ous edi­tions of the NFD, aside from the 2012/13 sea­son when Polok­wane City earned their pro­mo­tion via a slightly more mod­est tally of 49 points in a cam­paign that ended in con­tro­versy af­ter clubs boy­cotted the open­ing fix­tures and were docked points.

The tar­get of 50-odd points has also usu­ally proved good enough for at least a spot in the pro­mo­tional play-offs, as has been the case with the teams that fin­ished se­cond and third on the NFD ta­ble in prior years.

Baroka coach Kgoloko Thobe­jane says his side does not read too much into the statis­tic, as Baroka have their own num­bers to write.

“We take it one game at a time and the three points is all we tar­get,” said Thobe­jane, whose side is now lead­ing the pack with 39 points go­ing into their game this af­ter­noon.

In FC Cape Town, Baroka faces a tricky cus­tomer, con­sid­er­ing that the bot­tom-placed vis­i­tors from the Mother City of­ten bring their A-game against ti­tle-chas­ing sides.

Baroka can at­test to this af­ter their drawn first-round clash against the Capeto­ni­ans in De­cem­ber.

Coach Johnny Fer­reira’s side, who are fresh from a 3-1 thrash­ing of Vasco

Golden Ar­rows clinched the NFD with a record 60 points last sea­son, while Chippa United amassed 58 in the 2013/14 sea­son

Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria col­lected 55 points in the first sea­son the NFD was re­verted to a sin­gle stream, in 2011

Polok­wane City earned their pro­mo­tion via a pal­try tally of 49 points dur­ing the 2012/13 sea­son. It ended in con­tro­versy af­ter clubs boy­cotted the open­ing fix­tures and were docked points Da Gama last Satur­day, also put one over se­cond-placed Wit­bank Spurs last month.

How­ever, a num­ber of fac­tors are in favour of Baroka head­ing into to­day’s fix­ture, es­pe­cially against an op­po­nent as vul­ner­a­ble at the back as FC Cape Town.

Bak­gaga ba ga Mphahlele, as Baroka is known to its fol­low­ers, have thus far come away with three wins and two draws against the five Cape Town sides in the NFD. Baroka are also com­ing into the game on the back of five straight home wins in a nine-match un­beaten run.

Thobe­jane hinted that the team’s lead­ing scorer, Thabiso Ku­tumela, could be rested to­day due to a “knock” he sus­tained dur­ing his side’s goal­less draw against Black Leop­ards last week­end.

Ku­tumela is top­ping the scor­ers’ charts with 14 goals.

PHOTO: ASH­LEY VLOT­MAN / GALLO IM­AGES

WIN­NING FEEL­ING Baroka are march­ing on at the top of the NFD ta­ble

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