Johannesburg - Ajax Cape Town must show character when they face Golden Arrows in an Absa Premiership encounter at the Newlands Stadium on Friday night, kick-off at 20:00.
The Cape side were knocked off top spot on the log after they drew 4-4 with Mamelodi Sundowns in Pretoria last week, having thrown away a 4-1 lead to allow the Brazilians to come storming back.
“It was disappointing,” said Ajax coach Foppe de Haan of the Downs match, “but we have closed this on Wednesday after looking at the DVD, we will learn from our mistakes and move on – the biggest issue was that there was too much space between the lines, between the midfield and defence, between midfield and the strikers.”
The result allowed Orlando Pirates to leapfrog above the Urban Warriors on goal difference after they beat Moroka Swallows.
Now, with just four games left in the season, the Cape side can ill afford to drop any more points if they are to win their first ever league title.
De Haan is aware that his team cannot afford any slip-ups as they look to keep the pressure on Orlando Pirates, while also keeping Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns at bay.
At this stage, two or three points dropped could make the difference between first or fourth place; such is the tight nature of the standings.
“It’s a real important game if you look at the log. It’s all real close, so we have to win for sure,” said de Haan.
The Cape side will be without the suspended Hans Vonk, Khama Billiat and Nazeer Allie.
Allie will be replaced by the returning (from suspension) Clayton Daniels, while Sameehg Doutie should return from injury to step in for Billiat.
Reserve keeper Andre Petim will make his first start of the league campaign.
“Petim will be the goal keeper. He’s a little bit smaller, but he’s ok. He has to show it, it’s difficult for a reserve keeper, sitting the whole year on the bench, and then suddenly having to play.
“When I look at him in training, I think he will be ok. I hope he won’t be nervous, but he told me that ‘I’m never nervous’, so he’ll be ok.”
Earlier this season the teams drew 1-1 in Chatsworth, but de Haan is expecting a different Abafana Bes’thende side this time around.
“Arrows has a new coach, our German friend is there. He coaches real aggressive, so I think it will be a different Arrows from what we have seen the whole season.”
Ajax will have to overcome an Arrows side who seem to be finding improved form under new coach Ernst Middendorp.
Midfielder Thanduyise Khuboni hopes that the title-challenging Cape Town team will be feeling the nerves, allowing the KZN team to capitalise.
“It’s not going to be an easy game for us because at the moment Ajax are in good form. But it won’t be easy for them either – they will be feeling the pressure of challenging for the league and we will add to their pressure.
“For us, three points are vital. We aim to finish in the top eight, and so we must win as many of our remaining games.”
Khuboni believes Arrows can trade blow for blow when it comes to matching Ajax’s blistering carpet football.
“Ajax play football like us, so it will be a fast, exciting game with good football. They have guys like Serero and Doutie, but we have players like Philane Shange and Njabulo Manqana, we are good enough to take them on and win.”