Second-placed Highlands now in the spotlight
National First Division’s penultimate fixtures are more important than the final round next weekend.
Almost all the teams have something to play for – either to get to the play-offs spot or guarantee their survival in the league.
After Baroka FC messed up their chances of clinching the title when they lost to the bottom-of-the-log African Warriors on Wednesday, pressure is on second-placed Highlands Park to capitalise on these misfortunes.
The title race for automatic promotion to the Absa Premiership is still alive, with Highlands the only side who could topple Baroka from the top.
Highlands need a victory over Mthatha Bucks this afternoon that would take them to the same number of points with log leaders (59) but would remain second because of their inferior goal difference – unless they score five or so goals with no reply.
But Bucks are also not out of the woods yet at the other side of the log and know that a victory would guarantee them another season in the division.
Highlands, on the other hand, have been hoping and waiting for Baroka’s slip up and now that it has happened they need to capitalise on it.
Although Baroka still have the advantage, anything could happen in the final round next weekend when they face Milano at home – if Highlands, who play AmaZulu, put them under pressure.
This will be an epic clash as both sides have a lot to play for, albeit for different reasons.
Fourth-placed Witbank Spurs also need three points to make sure of a place in the play-offs. For this to happen, they would need to beat their nearest rivals, Royal Eagles, who trail them by a point.
But Eagles also know that this would be their only chance to overtake Spurs and get the third play-offs spot.
Milano, who still have a chance of getting to the play-offs, host Vasco da Gama, who have nothing to play for but pride.
Mbombela would be out to consolidate their position when they visit FC Cape Town, who are guaranteed survival.
It is equally interesting at the bottom, as any two of the bottom five teams could still go down.
Moroka Swallows are back at the bottom of the log but a win over visiting Thanda Royal Zulu would put them over African Warriors.
Thanda are also not safe yet and would want the three points to guarantee their position.
After showing some signs of recovering from a poor run, Swallows were dealt a blow when they lost to Santos at the weekend. This defeat brought them back to the relegation dog fight as they now need to win their remaining two games – and pray.
Despite their victory over Swallows, Santos could still go down if they fail to win their two games.