Well done AjaxCT for making the best of a bad situation over the past week. While others have complained to anyone that would listen, with sob stories about how the big boys with the oval ball stole their pitch, AjaxCT quietly went about business and came home with an impressive four point haul. Surely behind the scenes the AjaxCT staff were just as furious with the CoCT as the bigmouths across town, but when you go public with your negativity it can spill over into the on-field performances. Sometimes it is better to just make a plan. Instead of giving home advantage back to their opponents, AjaxCT made arrangements to base themselves in Johannesburg for back to back games with struggling Wits and resurgent Chippa. They seem to have built some team spirit by being “on-tour” together and at least made sure that Chippa would also have to travel up-country for the fixture. The last time a week went as well as this was the excellent pre-season tour to the same part of the country back in July.
Let’s not get to carried away with what has been achieved. The log position is still precarious, and the passing, movement and sometimes even basic control of the football left much to be desired in both games. It is understandable that confidence would be low given how the season, and particularly the past few weeks, have gone, but there remains a serious lack of quality in some key areas of this team. At one point in the second half against 10-man Chippa United, the SABC showed a possession statistic that indicated the 11 men of AjaxCT had just 29% possession. When things are going badly players can hide from the ball or try and get rid of it too quickly, but this is a damning statistic for a team with a man advantage. Hopefully the confidence injection from these two results will see this situation improve in next week’s tough trip to take on Kaizer Chiefs.
But, I have been looking forward to some positive vibes to start this week so let’s move quickly on the highlights. We may have ridden our luck against both teams at times (especially Wits and that miss from Amr Gamal), but we did manage two clean sheets. Stanley Menzo may not be delivering much entertainment, but he has at least made us difficult to beat. Only 1 goal conceded in 3 games since that horror 5 minutes of stoppage time against Amazulu. This was also achieved with a newcomer, Sirgio Kammies, coming into the back four. He looked comfortable in both games, both at the back and going forward. The MDC side had another good victory on Saturday and it is encouraging to see players making the step up to the PSL when called on. Although some very mediocre players appear to have been signed this season, there does not seem to be any problem with the quality of players the club is developing.
We have finally started to see a bit more of Sedwyn George in recent weeks. It is true that he looks a bit raw having just stepped up from the NFD, but he is ready to shoot on sight and gets his efforts on target. He twice forced saves from Daniel Akpeyi in his run out on Saturday night – perhaps not the most difficult saves, but at least the keeper was worked. There is no way he is going to repeat his twenty goal NFD season at this level, but I still feel he could be given a starting place ahead of Tashreeq Morris. George just looks more of a natural front man and in a season where many fans have been critical of the players attitudes, here is a guy that is absolutely desperate to make a success of his opportunity in the PSL.
We may also see him have some role next week against Chiefs. It would likely be from the bench given that it is an old footballing wisdom to never change a winning side. The fact that we saw an unchanged side playing at the same ground this week may have helped the side make such a comfortable and assured start to the Chippa game on Saturday. It is not something that we see too often in this side, with the fans being told in this week’s supporters meeting that the starting XI is heavily influenced by who has trained the best in the previous week. We must therefore assume that Tashreeq Morris and Thabo Mosadi have been consistently spectacular on the training pitch this season.
In a season such as this, with such a strange bunched-up log, there are many crazy statistics. Our return of just 10 goals in 13 games seems pathetic. However, on Saturday night Orlando Pirates sat on top of the log with an even worse record of 10 goals in 14 games. Everybody is still well in contention for a top 8 finish and the top 12 teams, separated by only 5 points, can legitimately all claim to be in the title race. Every week the competition is littered with draws and so a win such as that on Saturday night feels extra special. It almost feels like there is an extra bonus point for winning a game this season. These few days in Johannesburg have been a real surprising bonus for AjaxCT in this first half of the season. The disappointment of that injury time collapse on Black Matchday was followed by four tough away fixtures, and we could have seen the wheels completely come off. There is still one more to go, but the team has shown it can dig deep when needed. It was not pretty, but well done to everyone for pulling together in adversity and getting the season back on track this week.