Football can be cruel game. AjaxCT know this only too well after conceding a stoppage time goal for the third consecutive home game last weekend. This one will have been the hardest to take of them all for players, coaching staff and fans alike, as the optimism building up around the appointment of the new coach was blown away by the late drama. This was quite literally the last kick of the game with the referee blowing up before the game could even be restarted. For a split second it seemed he may have even blown the whistle before the goal went in, but it was not to be. The net result is that one of the few teams AjaxCT had realistic ambitions of catching have pulled away, while the Urban Warriors remain winless and rooted to the bottom of the table. It’s a horrible place to be.
Despite the perilous situation, there was a genuine air of optimism around the supporters in the run up to kick-off. There were some nerves around in what had clearly become a must win game, but the release of the starting IX calmed them and raised expectations. New coach Stanley Menzo had stated he would play with three strikers, and while we all knew that was not going to be the case, we assumed that he would be playing a more attacking game than we have been used to. The inclusion of Irwin Isaacs in a defensive role indicated that he had been running his eye over the squad and looking at ways to effect change. And in the end we did see a game in which we committed more men forward and looked more dangerous than we have done so far this season. But, we still have not seen any points.
The first half gave us grounds for optimism, although such an attacking line up did not test the visiting keeper as much as we would have liked. Isaacs in his role as an attacking full back linked well with Mayambela and much of the threat came from the right hand side. It was also true that the visitors looked sharp on the break and probably had the best chance. Evans Rusike sent in a cross that needed just a touch with the open net gaping and Isaacs out of position supporting the attack, however, Kurt Lentjies was just too late to tap the ball into the net. The half had started a little flat for AjaxCT, who were clearly nervous, but ended in frustration at not opening the scoring. Whatever was said at half time was however totally blown apart by an awful start to the second half. Just 30 seconds were gone when Lebohang Maboe opened the scoring for the visitors.
When you are down at the bottom things often seem to go against you. The ball into the box that led to Maboe’s goal was not the best, but somehow found its way to the striker. His initial effort was well read and blocked by the defence, but the rebound fell to him at the perfect height to volley at goal. His first time finish was excellent, but out of the blue. If he tried it again 100 times he would blast it into the stands on 99 of them. This time it was perfect and flew into the top corner.
Credit to the home side for not letting their heads drop. They monopolised possession afterwards and forced a stream of corners and attacking moves that were thwarted. Credit to the coach for having the courage to throw on teenager Grant Margeman for a debut under these difficult circumstances. Not everything he did came off, but his enthusiasm and energy created space in the midfield. And finally credit to the coach for the substitution and change that finally led to the goal. On came Mosadi, off went the increasingly ineffective Morris and Mayambela swapped wings to accommodate the new man. There he was moments later on the left hand side to lash home the equaliser.
There was just a moment then when everything seemed to change. It looked like the whole team had received an injection of confidence, and just seconds later Mosadi got round the back to cause further damage. With the defence beaten and the keeper committed he chose to shoot from a tight angle instead of squaring to Prince for a tap-in. If only he had chosen otherwise this would be a much more happier place right now. The moment came and went, we kept pushing on and then got caught on the break right at the death. Players on their knees, supporters in despair, it is an all too familiar situation this season. It is very hard to say when, if ever, this first win will come. The players must be distraught. They gave their all and were cruelly exposed. The positive is that we have seen what can be done with the players available. We have seen that we have a coach whose instincts are to attack the opposition. Now it is all about belief and confidence to turn this into a win from somewhere. But with an away trip to Rustenburg in the week and then a visit from Mamelodi Sundowns, it is not going to get any easier.