ALL TO PLAY FOR IN BYO DERBY
IT’S all to play for at Barbourfields Stadium tomorrow when Highlanders and defending Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions Chicken Inn clash in a potentially explosive derby.
Both coaches are feeling the heat following a string of inconsistent results, with Highlanders’ Dutch expatriate Erol Akbay seeking to end his four-match winless streak.
Chicken Inn gaffer Rahman Gumbo, himself a former Highlanders coach needs nothing other than a victory to regain his employers’ confidence having failed to meet set targets. He was supposed to collect 20 points from 10 games but got 15.
It is against such a background that the two coaches are praying that their game plans work so that they ease pressure. Things are bad for Bosso who reached the halfway mark among firm title favourites only to start a downslide as they have had a horrible start of the second half of the season. They have lost three consecutive games, the only team in the league yet to pick a point in the last three match days.
To get their championship hopes back into the groove and reclaim their supporters’ confidence, Highlanders who are on position three with 31 points, seven behind leaders FC Platinum and five adrift of second placed Caps United need maximum points against Chicken Inn.
History doesn’t favour Highlanders who have faced Chicken Inn in 11 PSL games which the latter dominated, winning five outings, drawing five and losing once since gaining promotion in 2011.
It’s a daunting task for Bosso who lost the first leg 2-0 in a match that Chicken Inn deservedly got maximum points courtesy of goals by striker Obidiah Tarumbwa and midfielder Clemence Matawu.
Gumbo will be hoping that his boys who are low in confidence come to the party and reproduce the first leg performance and save his job which is on the line despite Chicken Inn’s bosses publicly declaring that they are behind him.
But their preparations for the game suffered a blow when assistant coach Thulani Sibanda threw in the towel on Thursday, citing failure to attain the points required as the reason to quit. His decision has in a way left Gumbo exposed and probably the executive is in quandary as to what action to take on the gaffer who is the head of the technical team and is first in the firing line.
Gumbo will bank on welfare manager Sikhumbuzo Banda and goalkeepers’ coach Julius Ndlovu to help him implement and read the game on Sunday.
The champions are also fretting over the availability of injured midfield maestro Matawu who has been their heartbeat. Should “Gadhafi” as Matawu is known fails to pass a fitness test for the game, Chicken Inn will bank on Pride Tafirenyika, Tafadzwa Kutinyu, Chris Samakweri, Thabani Goredema and Brian Juru to form their midfield.
Tarumbwa and Ozias Zibande will lead their attack with Teenage Hadebe, Guide Goddard, Moses Jackson, Lawrence Mhlanga, Divine Lunga and Ben Nyahunzwi competing for places in defence.
Nineteen-year-old Prince Dube may return to lead Highlanders’ strike force after missing last weekend’s 1-2 loss to Triangle United due to injury. Veteran striker Ralph Matema is expected to partner him upfront. Newly signed Allen Gahadzikwa, Rahman Kutsanzira, Erick Mudzingwa and either Brian Banda or Simon Munawa should start in the midfield.
Ever-improving Peter Muduhwa, captain Felix Chindungwe, Honest Moyo, Tendai Ndlovu and Tendai Ngulube are all competing for places in defence while goalkeepers vying for the sole position are Ariel Sibanda, Njabulo Nyoni and Prosper Matutu.
Meanwhile, this afternoon Tsholotsho FC will be hoping to spring another spirited show like they did in Mutare when they came from 0-3 to draw 3-3 against Mutare City Rovers. Tsholotsho are home to Triangle United at Luveve Stadium.
Kelvin Kaindu’s How Mine travel to Baobab this afternoon to take on Tonderai Ndiraya’s Ngezi Platinum who will be hoping to extend their unbeaten run to nine games.
Ngezi beat How Mine 2-1 in the first leg played in Bulawayo and will be keen to complete a double over Kaindu’s inconsistent side. — @ZililoR
Rahman Gumbo Erol Akbay