Premium Journalist
2 minute read
17 Apr 2015
2:45 pm

Relegation scrap comes into focus


 With the Premiership title almost decided, the relegation battle moves firmly into focus ahead of this weekend’s matches.

Paulus Masehe of Free State Stars with Tlou Molekwane of Polokwane City during the Absa Premiership match between Polokwane City and Free State Stars at New Peter Mokaba Stadium. (Photo by Philip Maeta/Gallo Images)

First up on Saturday is the clash between Polokwane City and Free State Stars at Old Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane at 3pm. City have the luxury of not being involved in the scrap to avoid the drop, but at eighth spot on the log with 33 points with five games remaining they will be looking to secure their lucrative top-eight position. The top eight teams at the end of the season gain entry into the MTN8 Cup, and will serve as motivation for the mid-table outfits to finish as high as possible.

For Stars, however, they are second from bottom of the log on 22 points, ahead of last-placed Moroka Swallows only on goal difference. The team that finishes last on the log will be relegated to the National First Division (NFD) automatically, while the team who finished 15th on the log will enter the relegation playoffs with two teams from the NFD.

One of the reasons the Free State outfit find themselves in trouble coming to the close of the season, is they have scored the second fewest goals in the league with 24 from as many matches. Stars coach Kinnah Phiri said he would address this issue ahead of the City fixture.

“We are working mainly on attack, because we haven’t been scoring goals. We have also been conceding goals that we shouldn’t have, especially from set pieces,” said Phiri.

The coach said he had identified the reason behind his side’s soft defence and had an appropriate plan.

“I have just devised a strategy to prevent that. When I coached in Malawi with my previous team, for six years we did not concede a goal from a set piece. I have now brought in that strategy to

Free State Stars and the players are very happy with it.

“Apart from the set-piece defence and attacking, we have hardly conceded goals in play. We defend well, except at free kicks.”

In the evening, at an 8.15pm kickoff SuperSport United host Swallows at Peter Mokaba Stadium. United were placed sixth on the log on 34 points with five games remaining, and would also have a top eight finish on the log a bare minimum in their objectives.

The Birds, meanwhile, will be looking to turn their season around with their five games left, and at the very least avoid the automatic drop. In the other evening fixture, Wits host Chippa United at Bidvest Stadium.

The high-flying Clever Boys come off a 2-0 win over Orlando Pirates at their Milpark home ground, and will be hoping to improve on their fourth place with 44 points as they are only behind the Soweto side on goal difference.

For Chippa, it will also be important to get at least a point from the clash. The Cape side appear safe in 13th spot on the log, and five points ahead of third-from bottom AmaZulu, but any run of poor results from their five remaining games could see them engulfed in the relegation battle.