South-Africa

Tight NFD title race

2017-12-03 06:04
NEW FORMULA: Shaun Bartlett’s AmaTuks are serious contenders. (Samson Ratswana)

Johannesburg - There might still be a long way to go, but it looks like one or two of the three former Absa Premiership clubs could make a comeback to the elite league.

With 17 games still to come this season, there will likely be many twists and turns along the way.

But the trio of University of Pretoria, Highlands Park and Jomo Cosmos are leading the pack in the National First Division (NFD).

After spending only one season in the top league, Highlands Park will want to do the same in the NFD.

Resurrection points to opposite

The arrival of Owen Da Gama as head coach in September changed their fortunes. Before this weekend’s round of matches, the former Bafana Bafana assistant coach had taken the club to the top of the log. He has gone five games without a loss – four wins and a draw.

Second-placed AmaTuks were not far off, despite losing only once in the same period. After struggling to get to grips with first-division conditions in the first season following their relegation, coach Shaun Bartlett seems to have found the formula to compete in the jungle called the NFD. AmaTuks were undone by dropping seven points after two draws and a loss to Black Leopards.

Jomo Sono might have downplayed Cosmos’ chances of gaining automatic promotion, but his sudden resurrection points to the opposite.

Ezenkosi won four of their five matches and moved to the top three before this weekend’s round of fixtures.

Cosmos put four goals past Mbombela United last weekend. This not only gave them the belief they can still do it following a rather unconvincing start to the season, but it also boosted their goal difference.

After spending two seasons in the NFD, Cosmos are eyeing a passage back to the premiership and, with Sono’s guidance, can easily achieve their goal.

They are still within reach of the top spot and will fancy their chances of going all the way, winning the league and gaining automatic promotion.

At the other end of the table, coastal clubs are finding the going tough. Four of the bottom spots are occupied by teams from that region.

Richards Bay FC, who won the league last season before selling their status to AmaZulu, seem not to have recovered fully from their off-season sale.

They were second from the bottom after 12 games before their encounter with log leaders Highlands. They managed just one victory in 12 games.

Open the gap

Two newcomers from the ABC Motsepe League took time to settle into the division and found themselves at the bottom half of the log.

Uthongathi and Super Eagles won two and three games, respectively, and just a point separated them this weekend.

First Division tycoons Royal Eagles, who are owned by the Mpisanes – Sbu and Shauwn – are struggling, with only two victories under their belt. They have always promised much but delivered too little on the field.

Another coastal side, Ubuntu Cape Town, were at the basement of the log, having lost five times.

Though it might be too early, the pacesetters will want to open the gap at the top as they know the second half of the season will be tough.

Read more on:    nfd  |  johannesburg  |  soccer
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