Top three sides in final stretch for glory

REBAONE TSHIPING
Thursday, 28 January 2016
FOURTH MEET… Extension Gunners and Orapa United meet for the fourth time this season on Saturday in Lobatse. They last met in the Mascom Top 8. FOURTH MEET… Extension Gunners and Orapa United meet for the fourth time this season on Saturday in Lobatse. They last met in the Mascom Top 8.

T–he beMOBILE Premiership enters match day 20 this weekend, and if last week’s results are anything to go by, another treat of thrills and upsets is in the offing.

Of all the teams that went into match day 19 in the top 8, only Orapa United managed to collect maximum points, blowing the title race wide open. The log-leading United have a date with familiar foes Extension Gunners in Lobatse on Saturday.

The high-flying Ostriches humbled ambitious Nico United with a 3-0 hammering in Orapa last Friday, but their thunder was stolen by relegation fighters BR Highlanders who sunk Township Rollers 2-1 in the weekend’s biggest upset. The result arrowed Orapa to the top of the standing and relegated Rollers to the second slot. Under the experienced tutelage of Zimbabwean gaffer Madinda Ndlovu, the rich mining town title contenders have risen to the summit of the table following a string of impressive results.

While many argue that the team does not play a good brand of football, the miners have been consistent in their title pursuit and they will seek to continue their dominance over Gunners. Gunners’ troubles this season began in Orapa after the September international break when the then log leaders were brought down to earth by the Ostriches in a 3-0 drubbing.

Three days after that defeat Gunners coach Pio Paul was suspended from active duty and and since then, the Peleng Giants went from one bad result to another, until current head coach Daniel Nare was appointed. Incidentally, Nare’s second game in charge of Gunners was a Mascom Top 8 clash against the Ostriches who ultimately dumped Mapanstula out of the lucrative cup competition. The clash between the two teams will undoubtedly be important for Gunners after their 1-all draw with Gaborone United booted them out of the top 8 bracket. They were leapfrogged by the fast-improving Jwaneng Galaxy into the eighth spot.

Second-placed Township Rollers and their fierce rivals, third-placed Mochudi Centre Chiefs, are teams in serious need of salvation. Rollers face a tricky test against rejuvenated Motlakase Power Dynamos in Serowe on Friday evening, and the wounded giants need more than their large crowds to overcome their current predicament. For some months, a ticking bomb had been activated at Rollers and it detonated last Saturday when BR Highlanders put up a gallant performance to defeat Rollers 2-1.

Coach Mark Harrison was too quick to blame the players for the no-show but his team’s off-the-field issues have finally wormed their way into the field of play. Rollers’ players were a shadow of their usual selves and they were full of  negative body language. In Motlakase, they meet a team boosted by their 2-0 win over Green Lovers last week and the team’s spokesman Abel Lebopo has told BG Sport that they will be gunning for three points against Rollers.

“We go into this game with our heads up. There is no turning back. Everyone must come and see us this Friday. We don’t care about Rollers’ problems, we have our own, we will go into the game aiming for a win,” he said. Motlakase assistant coach Agang Mogotsi and Highlanders coach Lebitso Ratlou are close friends, it remains to be seen whether Highlanders will give Motlakase a copy of intel on how to beat Rollers.

Further down the log standings, defending champions Chiefs do not look anything like title contenders. While they have been closing in on the front two all along, their performances have never really amounted to proportions of championship intentions. The club’s company registration tussle has not helped the team’s ambitions. As if that was all, it has recently emerged that management is divided on the future of head coach Mike Sithole.

While one group favours the renewal of the Zambian’s contract, the other believes in the elevation of assistant coach Pio Paul to the top post. Sithole is said to be keen on using the new crop of youngsters at the expense of veterans such as Pontsho Moloi and this irks his detractors. They face Satmos in Gaborone on Saturday and they must not take the log’s basement side for granted. In their last game, Satmos held fifth-placed Miscellaneous to a draw in a game they were expected to lose by a big margin.

Should Magosi fail to win this game, they will convert to just distant challengers, especially if Rollers and Orapa collect maximum points. Following their 3-0 loss against Jwaneng Galaxy, BDF XI will travel to Serowe with guns blazing, where giant-slayers BR Highlanders await. BDF coach Beston Chambeshi maintains they lost to Galaxy because of errors made by his defence. “We didn’t defend well against Galaxy and Galaxy came hard on us. But we will recover”, he said.

The coach said that they will improve against Highlanders. On the other hand BR captain Agisanyang Ramaabya told BG Sport that they will go into the game with maximum confidence after beating Rollers. “BDF XI will play against us knowing that we beat Rollers, they would want to stop us, but we will be ready for them because our confidence is high”, the skipper tols BG Sport. Despite occupying the fourth spot, BDF XI’s form has been indifferent this season; they have been blowing hot and cold and it would not be surprising if they fail beat Highlanders as well.

Elsewhere on Saturday, Serowe Sports Complex will host a derby of the Reds between Miscellaneous and Gaborone United. The Gaborone giants need all the three points to seal Top 8 qualification as they have Gunners, Galaxy and Nico United to contend with for the coveted bracket. Nico United travel to Jwaneng to face a ruthless Galaxy while Sankoyo Bush Bucks host Green Lovers in Maun. The only Sunday match will see Police XI entertain Gilport Lions in Molepolole.

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