Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter—
THE honeymoon is over for Highlanders as they take on How Mine in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match at Barbourfields Stadium, three weeks after beating Dynamos 2-0 in Harare to end a 10-year jinx. A resounding welcome awaits Bosso at Emagumeni tomorrow, with their fans who had endured a decade of losing to perennial rivals Dynamos expected to show gratitude to their players for a job well done.
However, that famous victory over Dynamos is history and shouldn’t blur Highlanders as their opponents are equally good and can give them a nasty wakeup call. What the win against DeMbare did to Highlanders players was to inject some sense of self belief and raise their confidence. That victory also kept Bosso positioned well in the title race as they have 17 points from nine games. FC Platinum lead the pack with 20 points.
Highlanders’ opponents tomorrow are on position seven with 13 points and know that a victory will take them closer to the championship group. Erol Akbay, the Highlanders coach has called for supporters to rally behind the team saying the 12th man has a role to play in raising players’ confidence.
“Any big team the world over thrives on its supporters because support on its own is a tactic. If we ignore supporters we’re doomed. I know if supporters rally behind youngsters the young players will lift their game. Remember when we were 1-0 down against Harare City, when the fans started supporting us we got the equaliser and that shows supporters play a big part in our game,” said Akbay.
While he is hoping that supporters can add some firepower into his charges, his How Mine counterpart Kelvin Kaindu is confident that his players will rise to the challenge.
“It’s going to be an interesting game. We play a team that has picked form. We’ve struggled at times but still managed to pick up points. There are times when we’ve dropped points when we could have won but what I know is that we tend to raise our game when playing against big teams. Our approach has been good whenever we play top teams and even the last game against Tsholotsho we had a positive attitude. I hope we maintain that positive approach to the game,” said Kaindu.
Being a derby, the team that will want the victory more than the other will walk away with maximum points.
Highlanders will bank on Young Warriors striker Prince Dube who is the club’s joint leading top scorer with Knox Mutizwa on four goals each as well as veteran Ralph Matema to lead their attack.
They’re also hoping that winger Bruce Kangwa and central midfielder King Nadolo pass fitness tests this morning so that they pull strings in the midfield. Some of the players competing for starting places in the Bosso midfield are Simon Munawa, Erick Mudzingwa, Rahman Kutsanzira and Adrian Silla.
With Ariel Sibanda almost guaranteed of a starting place between the sticks, captain Felix Chindungwe will marshal the defence with Benson Phiri, Tendai Ndlovu and Honest Moyo. Seasoned goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya will be trusted to guard the goal for How Mine, with Praise Tonha, Qadr Amini, Victor Kamhuka, Nyasha Khumbuyani and Marshal Machazane competing for places in defence.
Central midfielder Thembani Masuku is a doubtful starter because of an injury and the gold miners’ midfield is likely to have Sakala Mukundike, Tsepo Ranthokoane, Pasca Manhanga, Tawanda Muparati and Toto Banda. Bosso should be wary of How Mine’s attacking duo of Charles Sibanda and Kuda Musharu.
Today: ZPC Kariba v Tsholotsho FC (Nyamhunga), Chicken Inn v FC Platinum (Luveve), Bulawayo City v Harare City (Barbourfields)
Tomorrow: Dynamos v Ngezi Platinum Stars (Rufaro), How Mine v Highlanders (Barbourfields), Border Strikers v Chapungu (Dulivhadzimu), Triangle United v Hwange (Gibbo), Mutare City Rovers v Caps United (Sakubva)