Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Ricky Zililo

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

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