Premiership newcomers Black Forest stretched their unbeaten start to the season to eight games with a hard fought point in an uneventful goalless draw away against Green Lovers on Saturday.
The result, Forest’s fifth stalemate of the season,was enough for the Mmankgodi-based minnows to consolidate third position in the league, whilst simultaneously consigning Lovers to the bottom of the table.
Saturday’s draw means Magoleng have now kept five clean-sheets in their unbeaten run;coincidentally, Lovers have now failed to score in five of their eight matches, managing just three goals all season.
It is a stat that illustrates the current gulf between the two clubs.
However, on a baking hot day in Serowe, where temperatures flirted with the 40 degree mark, it was Lovers who started the game stronger, dominating the early-stages as they took the attack to their more-fancied opponents.
Forest, who looked uncharacteristically sluggish and devoid of ideas, were indebted to their giant goalkeeper, Michael James, who was called upon three times in the first ten minutes to make decent saves.
Encouraged by their positive start, the Green Marines continued to press and came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 15th minute.
A well-worked move between Lovers diminutive midfielders, Keiketlile Tumo and Forest old-boy Ramolelwane ‘Network’ Benson, saw the ball end up with Kabo Ikaneng on the left.
Ikaneng’s accurate cross found a leaping Matthews Moruti, whose looping header seemed destined for the net, only to be spectacularly tipped away by James.
The keeper seemed to hang in the air for an age as he dived to reach the ball with his fingertips.
It was a stunning save but the keeper paid for his moment of brilliance, landing awkwardly and injuring his back.
Although he tried to carry on, James was in obvious discomfort and was eventually substituted on the stroke of halftime.
The game was held up for five minutes as the shot-stopper received treatment.
The short break-in-play disrupted Lovers momentum and the Serowe side were unable to recapture their earlier intensity, barely troubling James’ replacement, Itumeleng Selapa.
In truth both clubs wilted in the sizzling, energy-sapping heat, which seemed to take the life out of the game after a promising start.
Indeed, the final 70 minutes were somewhat of a lacklustre anti-climax, with neither team able to take control of the match.
Forest did have one glorious chance to win it late on, but an unmarked Lynoth Chikuhwa fluffed his big opportunity, guiding his fierce header straight at Lovers’ keeper, Garetsosane Onkemetse.
From just five yards out, he should really have scored.
But it would have been harsh on Lovers who were the better of the two sides overall and deserved at least a point.
Despite the fact that his team are now bottom following Mahalapye Hotspurs’ surprise 1-0 win over Sankoyo Bush Bucks, Lovers head coach Onthusitse Kootswele, was all smiles when he spoke to Voice Sport after the game.
“We played very well today. I’m extremely pleased with the boys, who, for the first time this season, managed to implement what they have been practicing in training into a game. I’m not too worried about our position in the table. At this stage of the season I’m more concerned with performances – the results will come,” he said with a mixture of hope and optimism.
Similarly, Forest’s coach, Rapelang ‘Razor’ Tsatsilebe declared himself happy with a point, insisting that a draw away from home was a good result.
“This is an important point for us. It was a hard match on a hot day. Lovers are an exciting young side who play with plenty of flair and energy – I have a lot of admiration for them,” said Tsatsilebe.
When asked what he thought of the recent media hype comparing Forest to defending English Premier League Champions, Leicester City, the Magoleng man just laughed, replying with a good-natured shrug, “I’m aware people have been talking about us as potential title challengers, but that is completely unrealistic. As far as we’re concerned the aim is to avoid relegation and still be playing topflight football next season.”
Both clubs are next in action on Wednesday, with Forest hosting Security Systems in Molepolole and Lovers traveling to the Otse Stadium to take on struggling Police XI in a massive, bottom of the table clash.