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Stellenbosch have to resharpen attack for Swallows

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Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker has not lost sight of the club’s season-ending target: ‘Champions League is the first prize. Finishing second and playing in that competition is our aim.’

Steve Barker, head coach of Stellenbosch FC. Picture: Ryan Wilkisky, BackpagePix

Herman Gibbs

Stellenbosch FC were strangely out of kilter against a stubborn AmaZulu side in a midweek encounter, but coach Steve Barker hopes to restore the potency of his side’s attack against Moroka Swallows on Saturday.

Stellenbosch held a 10-3 advantage in terms of shots on goal against AmaZulu on Wednesday night, who saw precious little of the ball in the match.

Of the 10 attempts, second-placed Stellenbosch managed only three on target.

The goalless setback against AmaZulu has cut third-placed Orlando Pirates some slack in the race to finish in second place and secure qualification for next season’s CAF Champions League, with the Buccaneers third on 49 and Stellies second, on 50, after 27 matches.

Stellenbosch coach Steve Barker has, however, not lost sight of the club’s season-ending target: “Champions League is the first prize. Finishing second and playing in that competition is our aim.”

Barker will need to ensure that his attackers are in sync at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday (3pm kick-off) so that they can capitalise on scoring opportunities, many of which materialise because opposition teams battle to live with the pace of their youthful side, which has an average age of 27.

He used the same playing pattern of 4-2-3-1 against Mamelodi Sundowns a week ago, and on that occasion, his attack was also not up to scratch – although the team were starved of possession then.

Before these scoreless efforts, this playing pattern had worked well.

In April, the Cape side scored 13 goals in six matches. It may well be that opposition coaches have worked out a strategy to deny the Stellenbosch midfield the space to operate in – thereby closing the supply to top marksman Iqraam Rayners.

The Bafana player is pushing for the Golden Boot award as he is second with 14 goals, one behind Orlando Pirates’ Tshegofatso Mabasa.

Barker feels his team will need to up the ante, because their rivals are making strong efforts now that the season is on its last legs.

“As you can see, many teams have hit good form at the right time,” said Barker. “Pirates are playing well. I believe we are playing well, so it will go down to the wire.”

Swallows, in 13th position in the 16-team Premiership, are at the opposite end of the log, so their sole purpose is survival.

Coach Musa Nyatama has praised his players’ fortitude after they scrambled a win and a draw in the past four games. They dread the possibility of participating in the end-of-season promotion-relegation play-offs.

“At this moment, there is still that spot for the play-offs that we need to avoid,” said Nyatama.

“We will keep on grinding and looking for positive results.

“If we get one more win, then we can safely say we can prepare for next season. But we’re still looking for those points.”

Swallows’ major problems started after they had points docked when they failed to pitch for two matches in December, because the players were on a pay strike.

Many players left in January because of the crisis, but Nyatama has praised those who stayed.

“Look at what the players have done after all the difficulties that we faced, starting from January, when we were docked six points. We could not play two games,” he said.

“We never thought we could be where we are. But we fight and we fight. We’ve got fighters, a good technical team, as well as good players.”

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