Last weekend’s draw at Supersport United took AjaxCT exactly to the two-thirds completed stage of the PSL season. We cannot pretend it has been anything like we would have hoped, with just three more points added since the Christmas break. All of that positive momentum that built up with the new coaches positive mentality has been lost by a side that is constantly having to change due to injuries, suspensions and international call-ups. Once on the the verge of the top eight, the side is once again nervously looking backwards at the relegation places.
However, it is not all doom and gloom. Regardless of what anyone in the management might admit in public the side were clearly undercooked when they started out again at Bidvest Wits. A long holiday and training games against local club sides is no preparation for the real thing. After struggling through the first few games, the coach has at least made the side difficult to beat again, with three consecutive draws. To play poorly and come away with a point after visiting a genuine title contender in Supersport is creditable. In particular, much credit must be given to man-of-the-match Jody February. Hopefully Farouk Khan had his TV tuned into Jody’s fine display on Saturday after being his biggest critic last weekend. To be fair many of us were calling for him to take a break, but the coach still had faith and let him retain his place between the posts. After struggling through February, Jody has so far found March to be more to his liking.
It should also be noted that all five of the games in 2017 have been against sides in the top six at the time of the fixture. On paper at least it should get easier from here. The run in to the end of the season is much less daunting, with home games against all four of the sides currently below us. There is a cup to play for as well and, despite having to travel again, the draw against KwaDukuza United is a realistic opportunity to progress. It seems the season has reached a crossroads. The cup tie and the following home game with Free State Stars are surely must win fixtures that could still set ensure a successful season.
The problem with achieving this is likely to be the long standing issue of goals. Back in December, Prince had just come into his best form of the season. One long break later, together with the sad return of his illness, and he has become a bit part player again. It is so frustrating for everyone to have such a natural goal scorer who is continually unavailable. The body language and facial expression of CEO Ari Efstathiou when asked about goal scorers at the recent supporters evening said it all. He was clearly, and correctly, reluctant to go into detail regarding Prince’s health concerns in public, but it seems like he is always likely to miss long spells of football.
Where to from here? Kabwe and Funga may have been filling their boots in Zambia, but they look like they will need time to adjust to the PSL. Hopefully there is more to come and they are not the latest in a long line of overseas players that make only a limited impact during their AjaxCT careers. With Bantu’s erratic finishing and Morris struggling to find his best form after the long recovery from injury, it all puts pressure on Nathan Paulse once again. He never lets the side down, and can be the man for the big moment as he showed against Chiefs at Athlone, but does he have the goals in him that we are likely to need? It now looks like a very good decision to have played him into match sharpness during those MDC games last month. As so often in recent times, this club that is all about its strong academy and excellent youth recruitment is likely to have to rely on the boots of its senior player.