Bucs must shore up de­fence

Diamond Fields Advertiser - - SPORT - FOOT­BALL RE­PORTER

OR­LANDO Pi­rates were given a rude re­minder of their frail­ties while their strength res­cued them in an en­ter­tain­ing 2-2 draw with High­lands Park at Makhu­long Sta­dium on Sat­ur­day.

The Buc­ca­neers went be­hind twice and both times clawed their way back thanks to their po­tent at­tack, af­ter their weak de­fence was ex­posed.

Pi­rates’ coach, Mi­lutin “Mi­cho” Sre­do­je­vic, has to find the right bal­ance in the two de­part­ments if the Soweto giant is to sur­vive the bap­tism of fire this month.

Pi­rates will take part in three com­pe­ti­tions, the Absa Premier­ship, CAF Cham­pi­ons League and Ned­bank Cup. The Ser­bian needs one of those tro­phies to ap­pease the Ghost af­ter four tro­phy-less sea­sons.

“We have started the year a bit rusty in com­par­i­son to how we fin­ished 2018,” Sre­do­je­vic said. “We be­lieve that this will mo­ti­vate us to work hard to reach where we’re sup­posed to be. We will ap­proach all three com­pe­ti­tions in a way that ev­ery match is a cup fi­nal.”

The Buc­ca­neers host strug­gling Chippa United to­mor­row at Or­lando Sta­dium.

They will then take a short trip to Zim­babwe to take on FC Plat­inum in Bu­l­awayo in their first match of the group stage of the CAF Cham­pi­ons League.

But first, Pi­rates have to get max­i­mum points against the Chilli Boys to move closer to Bid­vest Wits who they trail by five points af­ter 16 matches. But the Ser­bian coach isn’t wor­ry­ing him­self with the stand­ings just yet.

“No, we don’t look at the log. We’re only look­ing at our­selves,” Sre­do­je­vic said. “We have 14 fi­nals re­main­ing be­cause we played against High­lands Park as if it was a fi­nal and ev­ery re­main­ing match in the league, we will play like this. We will then see what foot­ball will pay us back.

“The les­son we learned against High­lands is that we need to close the gates be­hind and be ef­fec­tive up front. This is what is our tar­get in the re­main­ing matches. We won’t change much but to have more risk in our at­tack.

“If we’re killed be­cause of that, then so be it be­cause we would have died through giv­ing ev­ery­thing at our dis­posal.”

The Lions of the North showed great im­prove­ment from the team that stole a point in Or­lando with­out a shot on tar­get in the open­ing round of the 2018/19 Absa Premier­ship sea­son.

This time there was an el­e­ment of dis­ap­point­ment from High­lands for only get­ting a point while the Buc­ca­neers breathed a huge sigh of re­lief at snatch­ing a draw from the jaws of de­feat.

“They have dras­ti­cally im­proved from that game,” Sre­do­je­vic said. “They are a hard nut to crack. They are a team that pushes you to throw ev­ery­thing out of your­self and then en­sure that your qual­ity pre­vails.

“We tried our best, credit to the op­po­nents for giv­ing us a good game. It was a thrilling and end-toend match. We will crit­i­cally look at cer­tain things, es­pe­cially in our de­fence.

“We will also look at what we can do well in our next game against Chippa United.”

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