Following that morale crushing defeat against Maritzburg United, last week I wrote that football can be a cruel game. It can also be an unpredictable game, and that is of course what keeps us coming back for more. The hope that something unexpected will happen that will keep us entertained. Last Tuesday that is exactly what happened as AjaxCT finally won a game this season, and to top it all it was achieved away in Rustenburg. After that long wait to get the season up and running it was a strangely relaxed first win of the season, as the visitors raced into a three goal lead inside the first half hour. There surely cannot have been a single person in the Cape Town Stadium that would have believed this possible as they watched the dejected home side sink to the turf at the final whistle on the previous Saturday night. I am still checking the PSL homepages even now just to check it was not a dream.
I will admit that I did not see this coming. In fact I had planned to be writing a blog about the worst losing streaks in football history this week. As a pessimist I assumed the worst would happen on Tuesday and spent most of last Sunday book marking web pages about footballs worst losing streaks so that I could compare AjaxCT to them. From the start of the season it took us 93 days to record a win, and I think if we are honest, we were all wondering just how many unwanted records this side could break. Now that it is over we must hope the confidence and form will return and we can eventually move out of the PSL drop zone. We are a long way behind most other clubs still, but it can be done. Remember Maritzburg racked up a horrible run of 8 consecutive defeats last season, but still survived to compete again in the PSL.
There has been a lot of talk in the press about just why this terrible start to the season occurred. Roger de Sa was asked about this in Soccer Laduma this week for an interview to celebrate their 1000th edition. I think he was correct to play down the impact of selling players, which as we all know is the constant stick that local football supporters use to beat AjaxCT with. I accept that we miss Abbubaker Mobara, and he is really irreplaceable, but we have recruited experienced defensive cover. Did Riyaad Norodien really show us enough to warrant keeping him when an offer came in? If we had kept Anssi Jaakkola it would have held back the development of the two other excellent first team keepers we now have. Franklin Cale is a player whose experience we could have used, but otherwise the players we have sold have not really led to this dour start to the season. Those who watch AjaxCT regularly know it was the tactical mindset and overcautious approach of the previous coach. It already looks very different now with a more attacking philosophy on display. Can you ever imagine an RDS side going 3-0 up in the first 30 minutes of any game, against any opposition, anywhere?
The one downside of the victory at Platinum Stars was the inability of the side to put the game to bed, with many chances missed on the break as the home side pushed forward. We were nearly made to pay for it as once again we conceded late in stoppage time. This left us with a nervy finish after cruising earlier in the game. Incredibly we have now conceded stoppage time goals in 5 of the last 6 PSL fixtures. This may just be a statistical anomaly, and hopefully is not a sign of a lack of fitness or concentration in the dying moments of games. Maybe it is a sign of a lack of experience in closing games out. It is easy to imagine Franklin Cale keeping hold of possession deep in the opposition half in these final moments and killing a game off – if only he was still here.
How much confidence the win will bring will be there for all to see this week as the African champions, Mamelodi Sundowns, are in town. There is no harder fixture in the PSL right now and this will be a real test. We can usually be confident of putting up a good fight on our home soil, but one other unusual feature of this season is the run of poor results at home. The few points we have collected have tended to come on our travels, with just one solitary point from the six games played at Cape Town Stadium so far. To be honest it is hard to see that changing, but even though it’s just one win, AjaxCT feel like a different team now, and as I said right at the start, football is an unpredictable game.