A weekend of thrillers

REBAONE TSHIPING
Friday, 05 February 2016
DLALA PANTSULA… Gunners players could inflict more misery on Miscellaneous on Saturday in Lobatse DLALA PANTSULA… Gunners players could inflict more misery on Miscellaneous on Saturday in Lobatse

The beMOBILE Premiership has gone 270 degrees of the pie already, and after 20 rounds of fixtures, the race for positions has shifted gears to overdrive with Round 21 that begins this Friday evening laden with potentially nail-biting thrillers.

Chief among the weekend duels is the marquee encounter that pits together former league champions Gaborone United defending champions Mochudi Centre Chiefs at the Molepolole Sport Complex this Friday night. It has not been a convincing start to the new year for United but last weekend they redeemed themselves with a 3-1 win over Miscellaneous. It was a game where the Reds once again resembled an outfit befitting the description of ‘Big team.’

This was their first game since the arrival of Argentine coach Rolo Zapata who is currently sweating over the issuance of his work permit. United’s stand-in coach George Mogopodi has admitted that the team is on assessment mode as new players brought in during the just-ended transfer period must be given a chance to prove their worth.

On the other hand, the defending champions also salvaged what’s left of their pride when they demolished FC Satmos with a dozen of goals to one at the National Stadium. Chiefs’ Tendai Nyumasi bagged a hat-trick on the night coach Mike Sithole praised his charges for playing according to the rule book.

Chiefs inched closer to the top after Orapa United had dropped two valuable points thanks to their 1-all draw with Extension Gunners. Just like GU, Magosi registered their first win of the calendar year after failing to collect maximum points against lowly-placed Sankoyo Bush Bucks and Gilport Lions in earlier weeks.

The win against Satmos reduced the gap between Chiefs and the summit to just five points. Thus victory against the Reds will take Magosi even closer to the top and strike a psychological blow against title rivals Orapa United and Township Rollers who play the following day.

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
On a good day, the United trio of Benson Shilongo, Ntesang Simanyana and Alphonso Modisaotsile can carry their club to the Promised Land to see Chiefs prospects dented once again. On the other hand, Chiefs’ Lemponye Tshireletso, Senatla Molefhe and Nyumasi could be a handful for United. The game starts at 1900hrs, Friday night.

EXTENSION GUNNERS VS MISCELLANEOUS
In another intriguing encounter, Daniel Chicco Nare’s Extension Gunners welcome sixth-placed Miscellaneous to the Lobatse Sport Complex on Saturday. The gun-wielding Mapantsula are somewhat a happy team after bagging five points from the possible nine since the turn of the year.

Having claimed the scalp of FC Satmos and holding Gaborone United and Orapa United to draws in successive games, Gunners have grown in confidence and their Top 8 ambitions look like an attainable target. Gunners’ boss, Nare has added former United star Mandla Mgadla to his squad although he might have lost an opportunity to use Chiefs’ Keaketswe Mara Moloi after the player’s thwarted move to the Peleng side.

The signal of intent is clear on the part of the Lobatse outfit even with the failed coup on Mara, and any side set to cross paths with them had better be watching. Their weekend opponents Miscellaneous from Serowe are a team low on confidence after losing to United this past weekend. After an impressive showing in the first round which saw them sniffing around fourth place, Tse Nala seem to have hit a rock and they have since fallen down to sixth place. They will want to use this game to reclaim their confidence and reaffirm their pursuit of a respectable place. Kick-off is at 1600hrs on Saturday

PLAYERS TO WATCH:
In the likes of Daniel Mogapi, Mandla Mgadla and Daniel Chimuku among others, Gunners have a potent threat that should see them ease past the stuttering Serowe side. However, Tse Nala have a force of their own in Bogosi Mfila, Master Masitara and Pako Osupile  who Nare should ensure they are kept in check throughout the match. Kick-off is at 1600 on Saturday in Lobatse.

ORAPA UNITED VS JWANENG GALAXY
The clash of the two diamond-mining towns puts together joint log leaders Orapa United and the ever-improving Jwaneng Galaxy. The two richly-resourced sides will go into this game baying for blood, with Orapa hoping for a grip on the title chart while their Jwaneng counterparts will want to protect their Top 8 position. Orapa were frustrated by Gunners last Saturday and they had to dig deep into the second half to salvage a draw.

While they have struggled away this season, Orapa are ruthless at home and they would want to continue their fine home run. But they need to tread carefully if they are to overcome Philani Mabena’s Galaxy of stars. A table of the games played in 2016 alone puts Galaxy at the top after an impressive showing this calendar year. For the first time this season, Galaxy’s performances on the field of play justify their financial muscle and the recent success has largely been attributed to Mabena’s arrival. Kick-off is at 1600hrs on Saturday

BDF XI VS MOTLAKASE
After falling to Galaxy a fortnight ago, BDF XI returned to winning ways when they humbled BR Highlanders in Serowe on Saturday. The win was a big boost for the soldiers after the management was disappointed with the team’s showing a week earlier. BDF XI rode on their luck after Miscellaneous lost to United and they pulled to four points clear of fifth-placed Police XI.

Despite blowing hot and cold all season, results have been going their way and a top four finish is definitely on the cards. They meet a defiant Motlakase this weekend and the men from Palapye still believe they can avoid the dreaded axe. They narrowly went down to Township Rollers last Friday and they can be a nuisance for the army men.

Lying 15th on the table, Motlakase can only hope for other results to go their way if they are to survive relegation. It remains to be seen if newly appointed coach Oris Radipotsane will inspire his charges to victory and eventual survival.

GILPORT LIONS VS GREEN LOVERS
This fixture could be the most important of the round because relegation-threatened sides BR Highlanders and Motlakase Power Dynamos will be praying that this fixture ends in a draw. Lions and Lovers are the two teams in safety positions that are closest to the relegation zone. Lying 12th and 13th respectively on the log, only a win for either side can ensure a true passage to safety.

At the end of his side’s loss to Police XI last Sunday, Lions’ coach Mandivenga Paradzayi rued missed chances and said that his team is playing well. The Zimbabwean said that he was concerned with the way his attacking players fail to convert chances. Only new recruit Kenanao Kgetholetsile got a pat on the back from the coach after the game as he continues to impress since his move from Galaxy.

Lovers on the other hand would be worried about the distance to be travelled to Gaborone after another daunting trip to Maun. The Serowe side did well to avoid defeat against Sankoyo but this time a draw won’t be enough against the team sitting just a place above them on the log. Lovers’ youngsters will have their work cut out against Lions after the latter made some strong reinforcements last month. Kickoff is at 1600hrs on Sunday.

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