Ray Bande in MUTARE
FORMER Manica Diamonds coach Luke “Vahombe’’ Masomere was shown the exit soon after losing to Black Rhinos at Vengere Stadium during the 2019 Castle Lager Premiership football season.
And on Sunday, the current Mutare outfit mentor, Johanisi Nhumwa, leads the new-look Gem Boys against Chauya Chipembere needing nothing short of maximum points to stop their recent poor run.
Nhumwa started the season on a high, spending time perched at the summit of the log standings, but somehow lost grip in the battle for the control of the championship race against giants Dynamos and Chicken Inn.
Manica Diamonds have experienced a lean spell during which they collected four out of a possible 15 points.
Discontent grew in recent weeks in the ambitious Gem Boys camp as fans suddenly started questioning Nhumwa’s capacity to achieve what they expect from the team, that is, nothing less than the league championship.
Despite the promising start, Nhumwa is yet to win the hearts and minds of this club and the match against Rhinos will certainly have a bearing not only on the relationship between the coach and the fans but with the team’s leadership as well.
On a head-to-head basis, Manica Diamonds come into Sunday’s encounter against Black Rhinos with the bragging rights. They have a better record after getting the better of their opponents two times, drawing once and losing once.
Manica Diamonds lost their first encounter against Black Rhinos away in Harare in the 2019, leading to Masomere’s sacking. The Gem Boys got things right in the reverse fixture to win at the then home ground of Vengere in Rusape. Now under the tutelage of Nhumwa.
The two teams went on to meet in the Chibuku Super Cup and the Gem Boys won the first fixture before settling for a stalemate in the tournament’s group reverse fixture.
Gem Boys team manager, Ticha Zikai, concurs Sunday’s match is a must-win.
“I think this is a must-win match for us. We just have to collect three points at all costs. We know what we want as a team and we will keep focused on that,” said Zikai.
Currently Black Rhinos are seventh on the log with 21 points while Manica Diamonds are fourth with 24 points after 14 rounds of matches.
Both teams use Sakubva as their home ground, but it is Manica Diamonds, who will be at home on Sunday.
Black Rhinos coach Herbert “Jompano’’ Maruwa, who on Tuesday claimed that he has never been beaten in three successive matches in his coaching career, is expecting a tough encounter against the diamond miners.
“We are playing Manica and they are doing well and I am happy for Nhumwa. He is getting positive results. It’s going to be a tough match. We are expecting fireworks. We need to be at our best for us to get a positive result. The last time we played them it ended in a draw,” Maruwa said.
“Yes it’s now four games without a defeat, but it’s now water under the bridge. Our focus is now on Manica. The team is improving after every game. I am happy the boys believe in themselves.”
The Black Rhinos coach is yearning for his side to close the gap on the leading pack and he has been encouraged by the hard work the players have been exhibiting.
“Am happy with the amount of effort they are putting at training. We need to win this one to keep in touch with the leading pack and see how the season ends.
“What is needed now is to focus on one game at a time and we just need to improve our level of concentration, sometimes the boys are sleeping at crucial moments and it happens in football. We actually saw it at high level when Manchester City lost to Real Madrid.”
Castle Lager Fixtures
Tomorrow: Yadah v FC Platinum (National Sports Stadium).
Saturday: Ngezi Platinum Stars v Tenax (Baobab), Herentals v Bulawayo Chiefs (National Sports Stadium), Bulawayo City v ZPC Kariba ( Barbourfields ), WhaWha v Harare City (Ascot).
Sunday: CAPS United v Chicken Inn (National Sports Stadium), Highlanders v Dynamos (Barbourfields), Manica Diamonds v Black Rhinos (Sakubva), Triangle v Cranborne Bullets (Gibbo).