HIGHLANDERS 1, TAFIC 0
Although it is mathematically possible for BR Highlanders to avoid relegation, it would take some crazy figures to make it happen.
Tuesday’s victory against a hapless Tafic was however a step in the right direction.
The Mahalapye based side recorded only their second win of the season when Machimenyenga defender Buyani Kgomotso put the ball beyond his own keeper to score the only goal of the game in Selebi-Phikwe.
Perhaps carried away by the euphoria of the result Highlanders Manager Witness Phuthego optimistically predicted that his team would survive if they won their remaining five matches.
But they will face few poorer teams than Tafic.
And with a 13-point gap between them and safety, coupled with a massive goal deficit of 50, having scored just 13 goals and let in 63, Phuthego’s prediction would seem to be an impossible dream.
He said amongst their problems in their inaugural season in the Premier League was that they played their first round games with inexperienced players.
They were unable to recruit players after their late and unexpected promotion to the elite league following the Police XI and Security Systems debacle, since the transfer window had closed by then.
Added to that all their games were played away from home as they do not have a suitable home ground in Mahalapye.
Phuthego also complained that players did not have enough time to rest and prepare especially during mid-week games.
But he admits the experience has been beneficial.
“Even if we do relegate, we have learnt a lot. It was a good experience and at least we know what is required in the Premier League.
Our aim is to keep the same squad and coach so that we can bounce back stronger next season,” he said.
If Tuesday’s win and their previous victory, also by a single goal, against Miscellaneous were the highlights, their worst moment was the 9-1 demolition against Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
“That was just plain embarrasing,” Phuthego said.
For his part Highlanders Coach Teenage Mpote said local teams should have development sides so that they can be competitive.
He said he faced problems developing some of the aging players in the side because they lacked experience and the skills to compete at the highest level.
He said that at the beginning of second round he signed an experienced player in each department but that appears to have been too little too late.
The former Tasc and Miscellaneous coach has pledged his loyalty to the club whatever happens this season.
“Our time in the Premier League has provided a learning curve for the club and we can only come back stronger next season either in this league or the first division.”
Meanwhile over at the Tafic camp there was far less optimism about the future.
Preparations for the game got off to a chaotic start even before they had left Francistown.
Meeting at Nzano Mall the players threatened to boycott the game as the chairman had apparently made false promises over payments.
They were expecting five-hundred-pula each, but the cash failed to materialise.
Although they did in the end agree to travel to Phikwe, their poverty of pocket was matched only by the poorness of their play.
At times it seemed they were only there to make up the numbers.
Long-suffering coach Dominic Changwe has again to pick up the pieces in a dispirited side.
After a battling display against Ecco and a much needed win against Chiefs, the signs were there that given the right motivation the team has the potential to end the season in the top eight.
Instead they could still be drawn into the relegation dogfight.
“There were some players who were putting all their effort in this game and some did not.
How do you expect the team to win when they are not working together?
That is why our defender ended up scoring an own goal because there was no communication,” Dominic said in his post match analysis.
Anyway these are the challenges we face in football,” he added philosophically.
When asked in a telephone interview why he did not give players the money he promised, Chairman Nawa said it was ‘none of media’s business.’
He asked why we were concerned about issues happening at Tafic as they were between him and his employees.”