The University of Pretoria are fighting for their lives, hoping to retain their top flight status after a 15th place finish in the Absa Premiership forced them to go into the promotion-relegation play-offs with National First Division (NFD) clubs Mbombela United and Highlands Park.
Sunday's game at the Absa Stadium in Pretoria was the second of the play-off matches, Highlands Park having opened proceedings with an impressive 3-0 win over Mbombela away at the Kanyamazane Stadium.
As the mini-table stands, Allan Freese's Highlands side lead Mbombela by goal difference, both clubs on three points, although the Mpumalanga team have played a game more. Tuks are third and last after the defeat on Sunday in their play-off opener.
To be fair to Bartlett's men, they did hit the frame of the goal on three occasions.
But the former Bafana Bafana striker still felt his players failed to show up on the day. “To be honest, the woodwork was the least of my concerns. The lack of energy from my team, lack of intensity, those were the disappointments,” he said.
“We didn't show that we wanted to win it from the first minute. I said to them at half time, we will have a rude awakening if we do not step up. We didn't play like a PSL team today, we never got into the final third and capitalised.
“Disappointing, because we worked a lot on that in the last two weeks. These are the types of games where you look for your big players to turn up, and I don't think we had enough of those. I think we undermined them and there was a little bit of complacency from my players,” added the Tuks boss.
The Tshwane side now head to the Makhulong Stadium in Tembisa for a very difficult encounter on June 11 against the Lions of the North, who looked a very well organized and solid outfit in their win over Mbombela.
A defeat for Tuks and they would be six points behind Highlands Park and all but on their way down to the NFD. “We have got a lot of work ahead of us, especially as this loss was at home. Now we have to go to Highlands Park and to Mbombela and make sure we win those games,” said Bartlett.
Even though his team could have won by a larger margin if they made better use of a host of excellent chances, Mbombela United coach Vusi Mkhatshwa meanwhile was thrilled to see his team bouncing back from the 3-0 loss in their first game.
“Like I promised, we would fight and win the battle, but we are still trying to win the war. Let's hope we win the war, because my players are soldiers, they work very hard,” he said.
Remaining play-off fixtures: Saturday, June 11: Highlands Park v University of Pretoria, Makhulong Stadium - 15:00 Wednesday, June 15: Highlands Park v Mbombela United, Makhulong Stadium - 15:00 Saturday, June 18: Mbombela United v University of Pretoria, Kanyamazane Stadium - 15:00 Wednesday, June 22: University of Pretoria v Highlands Park, Tuks Stadium - 15:00 - African News Agency (ANA)
Original source: Lack of intensity a worry for Bartlett