After their 1 – 2 loss to fellow relegation candidates Mogoditshane Fighters a fortnight ago, Notwane football club went into overdrive in a bid to avoid the axe.
In an unprecedented move, two days after the loss, Thaloba Nthaga, the very same man who had masterminded their defeat to Fighters was announced as Notwane’s new coach.
In poaching ‘Machine,’ as Nthaga is affectionately known, Notwane boosted their relegation survival in more ways than one.
By taking the man who was in charge of a team one place above them in the relegation dog fight, ‘MaCat’ as Notwane is known to its legion of supporters, directly weakened Fighters.
On the second and most important point, they acquired a man with some pedigree to steer their ship out of the troubled waters. As one would expect, the move is definitely paying dividends.
In his first outing against the resurgent Extension Gunners, Machine’s charges managed a credible draw. This past weekend, they beat Morupule Wanderers 3 -2 to claim all three crucial points for their survival.
This means that since coming into the Notwane fold on the 3rd of March, Nthaga has managed to garner as many points in two outings than the team had won in the entire month of February.
Importantly, in the two games in which he has been in charge, Notwane has moved up two places in the league log. Whereas a fortnight ago they were languishing on 15th position, just one place above the last placed team, they are now 13th in the league table.
Not surprisingly, they are now placed directly above Fighters, equal on points but with one game in hand. Now, their survival chances have improved, while those of Fighters have taken a huge dent.
With just 8 games remaining before the end of the season, the question is, can Nthaga help ‘MaCat’ or has he arrived too little too late? “Right now, it is early to tell whether he can or cannot help them survive,” local football analyst and sports presenter Monty Gagomokgwa says.
While Gagomokgwa is not doubtful of Machine’s abilities, he is however wary of his lack of experience in the premier league or that of taking a team out of a relegation dog fight.
“He is very experienced at promoting teams to the Premier League. Can he take a team out of relegation in the premier league? I do not know.”
“What we can however all agree on is that Nthaga is one of the few good local coaches we have around here. I believe given time and opportunity; he can be one of the best.”
Gagomokgwa says another thing that can hinder Nthaga is the fact that he holds a fulltime job elsewhere away from football. He says this means there may be times when the coach will have to rely on his assistants to hold the fort in training.
Was Notwane seeking to weaken a fellow relegation candidate when acquiring the services of Nthanga? Not, according to the team’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) Mogomotsi ‘Ace’ Orapeleng.
“When we acquired Nthaga from Fighters, we were only looking at what is good for us as a team. It was not to weaken them but to improve our own chances of survival,” he says.
In Nthaga, Orapeleng says they believe they have a coach capable enough of leading them out of the relegation zone. “The fact that he was leading a team in the relegation fight was never an issue for us. All we were looking at was his capabilities as a coach.”
He says with the material already available at Notwane, they have no doubt that the man called Machine can make MaCat purr again. “All the remaining 8 games are crucial and equally important. We will treat all of them as cup finals,” he says.