FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza has demanded positive results from his players when they face struggling Bulawayo City at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
The log leaders have had a terrible second half of the season, picking just two points from a possible nine.
They were beaten by ZPC Kariba at home before they were held by Yadah and Caps United, a run of form that saw their lead at the top of the log cut to just two points.
For a team that looked to be cruising in the past few weeks, these sets of results appear to have shocked Mapeza, who if his team had won at least two of these matches, could have been out of sight by now.
Now, they are forced to continue checking above their shoulders as Ngezi Platinum Stars breathe down their neck, and third-placed Chicken Inn are not far off in this intriguing title race.
Mapeza knows failure to get three points on this one, their title campaign is off the rails. With Stars hosting Nichrut at home in what is a winnable match for the Tonderai Ndiraya-coached side, failure to get maximum points for Mapeza could see his team in second position by the end of the day.
Speaking at a pre-match conference ahead of the match, the former Warriors captain admitted that his team is under pressure to perform, but was quick to point it was “normal in football”.
“Everyone knows we didn’t have a good start to the second half of the season. We have to rectify the problems that we faced in those first three games, and from the look of things, the guys are doing everything in training and I just hope that when we get there, we can get a positive result,” Mapeza said.
“So far so good, I can’t complain. The guys are raring to go. They trained very well in the past weeks and they just have to be positive when we go out there.”
The season is resuming after a lengthy break that was necessitated by the harmonised elections, and Mapeza feels that the break could have done more harm to his team than good.
“As a coach sometimes you just need continuity. In our last game against Caps United, we did very well and had we continued from where we had left in the following week, we were going to get a positive result. But those were circumstances beyond our control, and it also gives us time to rectify those problems which we had in the previous games.
He is anticipating a tough match from a side that would be under new coach Bhekithemba Ndlovu, who took over from fired Amini Soma Phiri.
“The new coach will try by all means to get a result against us so it’s always difficult because he would put new players to the team who would want to impress,” Mapeza said.
Ndlovu, who has been given a tough task to help the team survive relegation as they sit dangerously on the log table with 15 points from 20 games, is upbeat.
“FC Platinum are a very good side, they are the champions and play very good football. They have a very good coach, but I think tomorrow (today) we will be ready for them. The boys are putting everything into it. They have been working very hard and the determination and the attitude is positive. We will be ready for whatever FC Platinum throw at us. We are down there but not out,” Ndlovu said.
The team has strengthened the squad by bringing in Chris Samakweri, Ozias Zibande, Benson Phiri, goalkeepers Munyaradzi Diya and Kelvin Nyoni.
Ndlovu said his players were motivated for the FC Platinum tie.
“The players’ body language is just excellent. We have been talking to the boys to see the bigger picture for Bulawayo City to stay in the Premier League because if we are relegated, we will become jobless,” he said.
Skipper Zibusiso Sibanda and Sipho Ndlovu are suspended.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League fixtures
Today: Chapungu v Bulawayo Chiefs (Ascot), Caps United v Black Rhinos (Rufaro), Bulawayo City v FC Platinum (Barbourfields), ZPC Kariba v Triangle (Nyamhunga), Ngezi Platinum v Nichrut (Baobab)
Tomorrow: Yadah v Herentals (Rufaro), Shabanie Mine v Chicken Inn (Maglas), Highlanders v Dynamos (Postponed)
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