Highlands knock at Premiership door
Highlands Park are a mere three points away from realising their dream of playing in the Absa Premiership next season.
This they can realise as early as Wednesday, when they host Mbombela United, whom they beat a fortnight ago.
Highlands’ 1-0 victory over University of Pretoria yesterday virtually condemned AmaTuks to the National First Division next season.
AmaTuks will now join Jomo Cosmos, who were automatically relegated to the lower division at the end of Absa Premiership season.
Highlands, who are on six points after winning their opening two fixtures, are three points ahead of Mbombela, while Tuks have yet to register a point or a goal in the play-offs.
Shaun Bartlett’s men came to the game aiming to get their campaign back on track after losing their opening game to Mbombela.
But it was not to be after winger Jose Garcia scored the only goal of the match via a curling free kick in the 53rd minute to break their hearts.
Bartlett made four changes to the side that disappointed him and also left striker Lennox Bacela and winger Thabo Mnyamane out of the team.
He opted for Atusaye Nyondo, Getaneh Kebede, Partson Jaure and Junior Sibande in the starting line-up.
Bartlett was hoping to draw inspiration from their 2-1 win over Golden Arrows in their last Premiership match of the season, which gave them another chance to fight for their status via play-offs, but it was not meant to be as their remaining two matches are meaningless.
On the other hand, Highlands came into the match with their heads held high, having demolished Mbombela 3-0 in their first match.
Highlands coach Allan Freese made only one change to the side that started against Mbombela with defender Christian Jemaine replacing Sandile Khwela.
The home side had the upper hand from the start, but it was AmaTuks who came close to breaking the stalemate in the 17th minute when Nyondo’s curling shot from the edge of the penalty box forced keeper Tapuwa Kapini to concede a corner.
However, the Lions of the North piled more pressure on the Tshwane outfit after the break with a series of attacks forcing them to defend deep in their own half.
Their efforts finally paid off when Garcia broke the deadlock with a curling free kick, giving keeper Tristyn Coetsee no chance.
BINGO! Jose Garcia celebrates after scoring for Highlands Park at Makhulong Stadium yesterday