PSL relegation: 3 teams fighting to stay up

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Three clubs will on Saturday attempt to survive the drop down to the National First Division (NFD) with two of them - Jomo Cosmos and Maritzburg United - taking each other on at Olen Park in the days’ pick of the matches.

The other relegation candidates, bottom-placed University of Pretoria host top eight chasing Golden Arrows.

Here, our writers Mazola Molefe, Kamlesh Gosai and Hosea Ramphekwa look at the prospects of each club:

Jomo Cosmos

Mazola Molefe

@superjourno

Jomo Cosmos head into a fight for survival with a dark cloud still hovering over their heads - the possibility of being docked points ahead of hosting Maritzburg United in an Absa Premiership relegation decider in Potchefstroom on Saturday afternoon.

Cosmos were dragged before an arbitrator this week at Safa House in Nasrec to determine whether they were indeed guilty of fielding an ineligible player in goalkeeper Thabo Modiba, who was apparently improperly registered.

But by late on Thursday there was no confirmation of the outcome of the case, which was postponed last week and went on until late on Wednesday night.

Reports suggested that Cosmos might be given a slap on the wrist in the form of a hefty fine, but neither Safa nor the PSL have set the record straight ahead of this weekend’s fixtures.

Coach Jomo Sono’s men currently have 25 points and are third from bottom on the Premier League table, with Maritzburg trailing them by just one point.

University of Pretoria are the basement dwellers and hot favourites to get automatically relegated, but it is no surprise that all three clubs face the relegation axe given how their season has unfolded.

Ezenkosi have seldom moved away from the bottom three throughout the campaign and have won just six of their 29 league matches. The also have the lowest scoring ratio in the PSL having rattled the net on 19 occasions.

However, on Saturday afternoon is the most important match of their campaign. If Cosmos win, the likelihood is that they would have guaranteed their status in the top-flight for another year even if they are docked points.

Sono is adamant that they have to fight their battles on the field and not in the boardroom like their opponents Maritzburg, whom the coach claims are behind the Safa case seeking to determine whether Modiba took the pitch without an international transfer certificate after he played in Namibia prior to coming to South Africa to join Ezenkosi.

Maritzburg United

Kamlesh Gosai

For the second season in a row the fates of two local sides are intertwined such that Maritzburg United’s battle for Absa Premiership survival could rest on neighbours Golden Arrows’ hopes of finishing in the top eight.

How the tables have turned ... Going into the final round of the league last season Maritzburg beat neighbours AmaZulu to secure a maiden top eight spot, and Usuthu were relegated in the process.

On Saturday at Olen Park it will be Maritzburg’s turn to fight for their top-flight status. And if they fail to get the better of Jomo Cosmos to ensure complete safety, Maritzburg will pray neighbours Golden Arrows collect a point at University of Pretoria.

That would book Arrows’ top eight spot and relegate the university outfit, leaving Maritzburg to contest the play-offs for a second shot at securing their status.

From top eight celebrations to staring at potential relegation is a steep slide for Maritzburg. However, it’s unsurprising because they punched above their weight in qualifying for the top eight, and thereafter lost No 1 goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters and failed to replace Ghanaian international defender Mohammed Awal timeously.

By the time Kwanda Mngonyama was secured again on loan from Mamelodi Sundowns and Kenyan international Brian Onyango received his work permit, the damage had been done and first-time head coach Mandla Ncikazi was fired.

Clive Barker came and went before Ernst Middendorp took charge and predicted that the three-team relegation league would be decided on the final day. That’s how it has panned out - three points separate bottom side Tuks from Cosmos, with the Team of Choice sandwiched between their rivals.

The simple equation for Maritzburg is to beat Cosmos to be safe. Anything less and they could be overtaken by Tuks. However, that task is made tricky by the absence of playmaker and captain Kurt Lentjies through suspension.

Likely midfield replacements include Gregerey Maasdorp, Ryan Moon and Bandile Shandu, all of whom are relatively inexperienced.

In the absence of Lentjies the main source of goals will be Maritzburg’s top scorer, Evans Rusike, who can expect close attention from the home defence.

As late as it is, Maritzburg take comfort in their improved form. They go to Cosmos on the back of two clean sheets and one defeat in their last five outings.

University of Pretoria

Hosea Ramphekwa

Just before 5pm on Saturday, it will either be a dream deferred or a dream preserved for University of Pretoria.

AmaTuks, who are at the bottom of the Absa Premiership table, may see their dream of remaining in the country’s elite league broken into million pieces if they fail to overcome Golden Arrows, who they host at the Tuks Stadium.

From the start of the campaign Tuks were always perambulating in the propinquity of relegation. They lacked ingredients of a top flight team.

Their defence leaked, midfield lacked creativity and their strike force lost their killer instinct.In a quest to turn things around, coach Sammy Troughton got sacked and in came Shaun Bartlett.

The erstwhile prolific scorer solved the scoring problem but the defence continued to leak. Their showings proved the words of Gavin Hunt correct. Hunt said: “Strikers help you win games but defenders win you titles.”

The title Tuks want is that of staying up. It will be an uphill battle as Tuks meet determined Arrows men, who also can’t afford a loss as they want to cement their place in the top eight.

Arrows are eighth with 40 points and teams below can also overtake them should they slip up. Bartlett will need all the strength in the world to overcome emotions and have clear tactical plan that works. A number of Arrows players will be sympathising with Bartlett after the former Bafana Bafana marksman helped Arrows to PSL promotion last season.

The same players who helped him win promotion could be responsible for his demotion to the National First Division. If anything Tuks players have to stand and right the wrongs they have committed throughout this season by winning the match.

This is going to be the most important 90 minutes of their lives as the axe is hovering over their heads. Defence, offence, discipline and determination are what Tuks need to survive.

If Tuks handle Arrows like it is business as usual, it might turn out to be the dream deferred.

The Star

Original source: PSL relegation: 3 teams fighting to stay up

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