Extension Gunners are facing a stern test these holidays in their bid to finish the Premier League season in a top eight bracket. For the first time in three years, Gunners are a competitive side and credit has to be given to their technical side led by coach Odirile ‘China’ Matlhaku.
Mapantsula were in a tough battle against their boogey side Township Rollers at UB Stadium yesterday. The Peleng giants return to the University Stadium tomorrow to take on the inconsistent GU in a 4pm kick off encounter.
These are games which, in many respects, would test the character of the Gunners’ side which has a mixture of experience and youth. GU collected maximum points from the Lobatse giants through a 1-0 win in their first round clash. It is a game which Gunners could have easily won but Lady Luck was not on their side.
Mapantsula have a chance to rectify that when they entertain the Reds tomorrow. It is a game which might put GU’s coach David Bright under immense pressure if they end up on the losing side. GU have suffered three consecutive defeats before their game against BMC on Good Friday.
In Gunners, the Reds face a side which has improved a lot and play an enterprising piece of football. Before yesterday’s game, Mapantsula had picked up some impressive results, which have seen them going unbeaten in six games. In that period, Gunners have registered five wins and a draw, which have taken them to 33 points in 19 games. In the six games, Mapantsula have scored nine and conceded three goals. Their target of finishing the season in top 8 bracket seems to be not far from reality.
Coach Matlhaku has been credited with changing the fortunes of the Peleng side though he is working on a shoe-string budget. Matlhaku is known to be an optimistic character hence he is not moved by the prospect of playing Gaborone giants in a short space of time.
“Upon getting our schedule, I shared it with my players in order to prepare them mentally for these games which are huge. The games will definitely test their character as most of them are youngsters. We’ve got nothing to lose in these games and I want to believe that the pressure is on both Rollers and GU,” said Matlhaku.
The former Lobatse Stars’ tactician said that he is still trying to build a competitive side and would not want to be disturbed by the recent success.
“We’re not there yet despite our position on the log. We still have to work hard to bring out a strong side. In the upcoming games, if we maintain our focus, we’ll definitely get positive results,” Matlhaku said.
In yesterday’s game, Gunners welcomed back veteran defender Finkie Mothibi from suspension after missing their 1-1 drawn match against Mogoditshane Fighters. Mothibi has been the pillar of strength in his side’s revival. Coach Matlhaku has also praised his January’s transfers, Maikano Maikano and Elijah Montsho, for the commitment they have shown ever since crossing the floor from Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
“They have given us a dimension though I’m still worried about their fitness as they were not playing regularly at Chiefs,” said Matlhaku.
The soft-spoken coach has appealed to Gunners’ supporters to rally behind his side in large numbers as it will motivate them to go for broke. The game between GU and Gunners will be broadcast live on Supersport 9 from 3.45pm.