It has been a good week. We were hoping for a very good week, but enough has been achieved to keep us in with a realistic survival chance. In fact the four points gained this week have virtually ruled us out of a bottom place finish and put us back into the fight to avoid the play-off place. We have to grudgingly give some respect to Supersport United for making themselves tough to beat and getting the two points from their two difficult fixtures that ensured it is AjaxCT that remain in the danger zone. We can only focus on our own games, but sadly we are still relying on somebody above us slipping up.
The team was given the perfect introduction to the week by local football writer Rodney Reiners, whose piece for the Cape Argus calling on the team to produce the ugly, hard work was exactly what was needed. The team must have been listening as they turned out a performance on Tuesday night that was effective and hard-working, but at times incredibly difficult to watch. There was a spell of 20-30 minutes in the second half where the extreme zonal defence of then home side took the term ‘parking the bus’ to a whole new level. There were times when we really should have done more with the few opportunities we had with the ball but overall Wits were frustrated into submission. We can perhaps excuse Gavin Hunt for his grumpy comments about Yannick Zakri’s wonderful counter attacking goal. It cannot be easy to watch your side try so hard, only to hit a brick wall and be simply ground out of the game. Mushin Ertugal was correct in his post-match assessment when he told the media that this was ‘not a beauty contest’. There is a time and place for this sort of performance. If football was always played like this we would all be finding something else to do with our spare time. But these are desperate times and this is now the time and place for playing ugly. It worked this week.
The other quality that is likely to see us through this relegation scrap is the ability to keep fighting to the end of games. This was the quality that got us a point at Chippa on Sunday as Zakri scored again, this time in the closing moments of yet another away game that the side were desperately chasing. With no TV coverage, we will have to wait for the return of the loyal coach load of supporters from Port Elizabeth for a more in-depth assessment of what could be a crucial point. An away point always feels like an achievement, but with the only remaining away game left (in the regular season) being what looks like mission impossible at Sundowns we face the very real prospect of an entire season without a single away victory. Just a couple of away wins this season would have seen us going into these final few games virtually safe and pushing for the top eight. Even over such a long season there is a very fine line between success and failure and we remain desperate not to get caught on the wrong side of it.
There was also good news, of a sort, for the club off the field with the latest instalment of the never-ending Tendai Ndoro drama. With FIFA now throwing the matter back to the PSL to resolve and the PSL having already ruled him eligible to play, the pendulum seems to have swing back in favour of AjaxCT. Who knows how this saga will end up, but after the weeks developments it would seem points deductions are now as unlikely as they have ever been. Watching the work of Zakri and Lakay on Wednesday night you might be tempted to think what the club were risking everything for in the first place. There is some genuine quality, pace and trickery in this AjaxCT frontline and if the club can get out of this relegation nightmare it would be wonderful to think that they could secure these players again for a new campaign. There were times on Wednesday when Zakri was almost playing in a full back position as the team settled into its disciplined defensive unity. Moments later he was chasing down a lost cause to win a loose ball at the other end of the pitch and set up another goal scoring chance. Magnificent.
It was almost inevitable as goal scorer that he won man of the match, and after yesterday’s late equaliser he will be the talk of the team this week. But what we have seen this week is a real determined team effort, with many unsung heroes. It was great to see the same side selected for the Chippa game on Sunday and let’s hope they can go again when Baroka roll into town for the next instalment of this difficult season. Unity and hard work are everything right now. We have seen enough to give us some hope of a successful outcome.