Highlands Park closing in on promotion

Thapelo Mathibe of Highlands Park challenged by Ronald Ketjijere of University of Pretoria during the Promotion Playoff match between Highlands Park and University of Pretoria at the Makhulong Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa on June 11, 2016 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

Highlands Park are now firm favourites to win promotion to the Absa Premiership after they beat University of Pretoria 1-0 in a promotion play-off game at the Makhulong Stadium on Saturday.

The NFD club have now won two out of two matches in the play-offs and can secure their place in the Absa Premiership with a victory on their home turf over Mbombela United on Wednesday June 15. With a superior goal difference to their rivals, a draw could even be enough.

Tuks meanwhile have lost their two play-off fixtures and will be relegated unless they win their last two games and have other results and goal difference going their way.

Having weathered an early storm which saw the hosts piling on the pressure with a series of corner kicks, AmaTuks were to have the first attempt on goal, Atusae Nyondo picking up a loose ball 20-yards out and curling a shot towards the top corner, but Tapuwa Kapini clawed the ball away from danger.

Thapelo Mathibe should have done better for the Lions of the North when he got the opportunity to shoot from the edge of the box midway through the opening half, but he sent his left-footed shot curling wide of the far post.

A couple of minutes later and there was another chance for Highlands as Jose Garcia let rip, but Tristyn Coetsee scrambled across the make the save.

The second half saw Highlands Park dominating after the restart, and they were nearly in front on 50 minutes when Mothobi Mvala turned and shot in the box, but Coetsee did superbly to make a low block on his goal line.

But there was to be no denying the hosts the opening goal as Garcia struck with a beauty of a free kick, curling the ball into the top corner from 30-yards out, leaving Coetsee rooted to the spot.

As the game moved into the final 15 minutes, the Tshwane side upped the ante in search of an equaliser, creating a couple of chances for Ethiopian marksman Getaneh Kebede, but he was unable to beat Kapini.

Not that Allan Freese’s side didn’t have chances to add to their tally, but Richard Matloga missed a couple of guilt-edged opportunities in the box.

Kebede had what looked like a decent penalty appeal waved away by the referee with seven minutes to go after Kapini appeared to have tripped him in the box.

Backed by their passionate fans who had packed the stadium in Tembisa, the Lions of the North were able to play out the final minutes of the game to move to six points from two matches in the play-offs.

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