Barker hails resilient Tuks
Steve Barker (Gallo Images)
Pretoria - Following his side's first PSL win of the season against Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday, University of Pretoria coach Steve Barker has praised his team for showing a will to win and the type of character he expects from a top league soccer outfit.
Ugandan international Geofrey Massa scored on debut for the Pretoria side after Atusaye Nyondo gave the home side the lead two minutes earlier at the Tuks Stadium on Saturday afternoon, rounding off a solid 2-0 victory.
"Obviously I'm pleased. We needed to get a win," a relieved Barker said after the game.
"Overall, I'm pleased. I thought the commitment that the players put in again, you can never fault this team for their resilience and their hard work."
Nyondo's opener caught Celtic off guard, breaking the deadlock against the run of play in the 16th minute.
Massa's goal was the highlight of the encounter, as he thundered home from a free-kick that left the Celtic outfit rocked by a contender for goal-of-the-season.
"I must be honest, I think we've played better this season, but it's never easy when you go to 2-0 up after 20 minutes. It's a scoreline where, if you don't go and get that third goal, you end up sort of sitting back and allowing the opposition a bit too much space," Barker said.
"We can't allow that to happen, but in saying that, it was good to have everybody available for the first time this season."
Both Nyondo and Massa joined AmaTuks in the off season and Barker said he was delighted with the form the attackers showed, particularly as they had not played competitive soccer in recent months.
"The two players that scored had their first starts for us, so it was good that they both got off the mark.
"Geofrey Massa, I don't think has played a game in about two or three months, so for him to get close to 80 minutes when he's not at full fitness is good for him."
Tuks started the new campaign poorly, going down to Moroka Swallows and SuperSport United in consecutive defeats, before earning their first point with a goalless draw against Maritzburg United in their last league encounter.
However, Barker was confident his young team would be back to the kind of form that saw them finish inside the top eight last season, their first in the country's top-flight.
"I have to take the clean sheet. We've only conceded two goals in four games," he said.
"We're not a team that's easy to break down. We just have to be a bit smarter when we are leading matches, to just try and keep possession for a bit longer and not sit back too deep.
"I've said it in the last couple of weeks that it's just a matter of getting that first win under the belt and just getting that confidence and belief back."