While most AjaxCT supporters will be glued to their TV screens at the weekend, following the sides fortunes against log leading Mamelodi Sundowns I will be in a tent outside of cell reception somewhere remote in the Northern Cape. Relaxing nature noises and tranquility are what is needed right now after a seriously tense evening of action at Athlone Stadium. Somehow the result was ground out and the season remains alive. If a miraculous away win can be pulled off at the weekend we might even go into the final game virtually safe.
The 7 points from the last three games will surely give the players some belief and the 3 that they managed to prize out of this game will feel extra precious after the dramatic way they were secured in injury time. You do not expect games to be easy when you are waist deep in the relegation quagmire, but this was way too tense.
A forgettable first half as the side seemed to be trying too hard. Passes were rushed and the nerves were there for all to see. It got better in the second half as the coach started to tinker with the personnel and made several positional changes to force a result. With more men pushed forward there was a real danger that the side could be caught on the break as they threw caution to the wind in the search for a breakthrough. Baroka are an excellent counterattacking side and were prepared to shoot from almost anywhere on the pitch.
The better chances were starting to fall to the home side though, with Julies forcing the keeper into a full-stretch save just after the hour. The substitute then had a penalty shout shortly afterwards. It would have been generous, but at least reflected the increase in tempo from the home side.
It was the introduction of youngster Sergio Kammies that really turned the game in the final 15 minutes. Suddenly there was someone that could carry the ball down the right and play the best quality balls of the evening into the box. He should have scored himself with a guilt-edged chance just after coming on. Perhaps if he had been on the field a little longer he may not have snatched at it so badly. He did help set up a continuous string of chances in the closing minutes – Zakri, Lebusa, Morris – the ball just would not go in. The chance for Morris in the final minutes was probably the move of the game. Excellent ball in, superb acrobatic header and breath-taking save. I really thought that was it.
Despite the nerves that were on show and the lack of composure and accuracy in passing for much of the night, the one quality that every player showed was character, with a determination not to give in. No heads went down and nobody lost their cool on a tense occasion. Still going strong, deep into injury time and eventually the moment came. There is something about playing at this stadium when a result is desperately needed. It was great work on the right from Kammies again, he combined with Morris and in came the cross. After several wonder saves for once the keeper flapped at the ball and there was the captain to keep his head and steer the ball home. There is no denying just how important that moment is in this difficult season.
So, no blog next week. At about the time when it normally goes live I will be just about emerging back into cell phone reception and desperately checking the score, hoping for a surprise result. In reality. this is still likely to go to the final day, but with a team that has shown so much determination in the last few weeks it suddenly feels that anything is possible. Bring it on.