Cape Town – Kaizer Chiefs are at the summit of the Absa Premiership and appear to be heading to their first domestic title in five seasons.
With just 10 matches left of the 2019/20 league campaign, it has been an interesting seven months to date for the Soweto giants as they've dominated the log standings from the outset, but will need to keep the momentum going.
Worryingly for their fans, some cracks are beginning to show after they suffered two crucial league defeats against SuperSport United (January 4) and Maritzburg United (February 15) while a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Black Leopards (January 18) also set back the Naturena side.
Their 2-1 defeat against the Team of Choice last Saturday has resulted in criticism from their supporters which has been largely targeted towards current first-choice goalkeeper, Daniel Akpeyi.
The Nigerian international was at fault for the first goal as he attempted to recover the ball on the edge of the penalty area, but failed to do so, instead putting the ball into the path of a Maritzburg player.
Within seconds, the ball was crossed towards Daylon Claasen and the former Wits midfielder opened the scoring for the visitors with a side-volley strike.
Chiefs fans also believe the 33-year-old played a part in gifting Maritzburg a second goal within a minute after Claasen's strike.
The Glamour Boys' defence was disjointed and an obvious lack of communication resulted in Claasen's second goal for the night.
Many believe Akpeyi's lack of communication was key to Chiefs conceding the second goal as calls immediately began from fans to introduce Itumeleng Khune into the match.
Those calls have not stopped, so much so that head coach Ernst Middendorp had to openly declare that Akpeyi is currently Chiefs' first-choice in league matches, with Khune wearing the gloves during Cup encounters.
But Chiefs supporters are against Middendorp's decision and more so after Wednesday evening's results.
Amakhosi previously held a healthy 9-point league lead last month, which has now been reduced to 4 points after second-placed Mamelodi Sundowns' 2-1 victory over Bloemfontein Celtic.
Khune has also spoken out and respects the German mentor's decision and believes that Akpeyi has done a good enough job to keep the Bafana Bafana 'keeper out of Chiefs' starting XI.
The 32-year-old Khune has struggled for much of the 2019/20 season after recovering from a shoulder injury which he picked up in December 2018. Khune was sidelined for several months after surgery and missed out on the chance to represent South Africa at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) in Egypt.
Khune has only recently returned to full fitness after suffering an injury setback at the start of the current campaign which Middendorp took the blame for. The 60-year-old mentor believes he was too quick to launch Khune back into competitive matches.
So, the German is cautious this time around, giving the shot-stopper only as much as his body can handle.
Chiefs supporters have the right to feel frustrated - as any other fan would - but I agree with Middendorp's decision to stick with Akpeyi.
Amakhosi find themselves in a position where they have one hand on the Absa Premiership trophy and switching things up could cause unnecessary confusion and tension within the Chiefs camp.
It seems that both Khune and Akpeyi are aware of the situation and have accepted their fate going forward.
Akpeyi has been a top tier professional while Khune has been admirable in his journey as an understudy this season despite for the vast majority of his Chiefs career being the go-to man between the goalposts.
With the media and fans continuing to probe Middendorp on Khune not starting ahead of Akpeyi, the German has made it crystal clear and seems confident with his choice - as he should be.
Any changes - unless forced due to injury - would split the dressing room and bring in negative energies that no player will want to feel especially so deep into the season.
Also, keeping tabs on Khune's progress will be necessary as Middendorp would not want him to suffer another injury setback.
Don't get me wrong, having Khune and Akpeyi as options is a luxury as they're both experienced and among the best goalkeepers on the continent.
It would be in Middendorp's best interests to stick with Akpeyi despite his poor performance against Maritzburg and give him a chance to redeem himself.
So, Ernst stick to your guns!