Pretoria - Having endured a difficult week in the PSL, University of Pretoria coach Steve Barker says his team’s next run of fixtures could prove decisive in determining their fate at the end of the season.
Tuks were defeated by Mamelodi Sundowns on Saturday, three days after losing out to University rivals Wits, leaving the Pretoria team in a scramble for places near the bottom of the PSL table.
Now in their second season in the country’s top tier, Tuks will look to improve their 13th-placed position, with games against opposition the young AmaTuks team will fancy their chances against.
“Our next five fixtures include teams like Polokwane City, AmaZulu and Free State Stars… so that’s a key period for us,” Barker said after the game at Tuks Stadium.
“We knew this week would be tough against two very good teams, Wits and Sundowns.
“We hoped to get something more than we did, but the important part of our season, the crucial part, is the next six matches.”
Despite the defeat to neighbouring Sundowns, Barker said he was encouraged by his team’s performance, pointing to a desire within his troops to keep fighting for a result.
“Overall I’m disappointed with the result, but once again, proud of the players’ performance,” Barker said.
“It is challenging times for the team, obviously the amount of points is not where we want to be.
“But if we can continue to show the character and attitude and commitment we did in the second half, then it will bode well for us.”
Tuks have been solid in defence this season, having only conceded seven goals, which was something Barker said he was happy about, but insisted work still needed to be done both in attack and defence, if the youngsters were to better their log standing.
“I can’t be too harsh on my players. If you look, before tonight (Saturday), we’d only conceded four goals in eight games, so our defence has been one of the best in the league,” he said.
“We do work hard at it and to concede three goals, was a lack of concentration.
“A big area we work on is when we don’t have the ball, is to stay focussed.
“I think our problem is not defensively, it’s in scoring more goals and creating more opportunities for us to score goals and win matches.”
A host of injuries to key players have also not aided Barker in his campaign to secure a top eight finish this season, and Barker admitted he was feeling the frustrations of not having a full compliment of players to choose from.
“I believe we’ve had a lot of unnecessary and unfortunate set-backs in terms of being able to have our full-strength team.
“When you’re a team like us, you need your full-strength squad to be available more often than not.
“It’s about lifting ourselves up and maintain the positivity and belief that it will still turn out to be a good season for us.
“We’re confident that will be the case. It’s a question of just continuing to do what you do and trust in what you do, trust in the players that we have.”