The Sunday News
Ngqwele Dube, Sports Correspondent
HIGHLANDERS will be out to improve their conversion rate in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League when they take on defending champions, FC Platinum this afternoon at Barbourfields Stadium in what is likely to be a thrilling encounter.
Bosso strikers have struggled upfront to find the back of the net and the team has scored the least number of goals having only hit the back of the nets seven times while teams like TelOne and Mushowani Stars who are below them have banged in 10 and 13 goals respectively.
Bosso forwards have failed to utilise the numerous chances they have created leading to numerous draws that have kept them just above the relegation zone.
Technical manager, Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu revealed they are hoping to turn the tables this afternoon and believes his strikers are ready to make a turnaround.
He revealed they have been working extra hard to ensure their forwards retain their confidence and are not frustrated by the misses they have been making.
“We have some of the best strikers in the league in Prince Dube and Tinashe Makanda and we have been working round the clock behind the scenes to ensure they retain their mental strength and confidence going forward.
“They have responded positively and it is only a matter of time before they start scoring and it could be on Sunday (today).
Prince has come out as a thorn for most of our opponents, forcing them to back paddle in many instances, making dangerous runs and generally giving them headaches but has been unfortunate not to score but we believe it’s a matter of time,” he said.
Dube will be making a return after missing out on their previous game against Ngezi Platinum as he was serving a suspension for accumulating three yellow cards with another striker, Ray Lunga also available after recovering from injury.
Mpofu said they are cognisant of the need to collect maximum considering their position on the log standings and is confident his charges can live up to the task.
“We can’t take anything besides three points, we have to win at all cost and the boys are focused and want to win. They have been training hard and are raring to go and as a technical team we have to dig even deeper to come up with a strategy and game plan to upset FC Platinum.
I’m positive considering the last two games we have played, there has been good momentum and we been improving with each game we are ready for the champions,” he said.
Mpofu added they are not worried about the unavailability of a natural right back as two players who play in that position, Bukhosi Sibanda and McClive Phiri are out with injuries while Andrew Mbeba is suspended after being red carded in their one all draw against Ngezi.
“The defence looked solid after we made the tactical change by moving Mbekezeli (Sibanda) to the left back and shifting Peter Mudhuwa to the right after Mbeba was shown a red card seven minutes into the game.
We are coming up with combinations at training and by Sunday, remember we also have defenders Charlton Siamalonga and Vincent Moyo so I’m sure we will have got the right combination and have a very solid defence,” he said.
FC Platinum are going through a player crisis and will head into the match still short of players following the expiry of several contracts with some players going for trials, a situation that forced them to play with only 13 players in their last game against Manica Diamonds which they won 1-0.
The defending champions coach, Norman Mapeza revealed the situation will be much better today with the return of Lawrence Mhlanga, Perfect Chikwende and William Stima.
“We are still short in numbers but what we saw last weekend was great character from the boys despite being few, they showed character and I would like to salute them for their efforts. Ever since I started coaching I have never went with 13 players to a match but I am glad they did well,” he said.
Mapeza said they are hoping to continue with winning ways and maintain their grip on pole position. He said while in terms of statistics they are better than Bosso, they won’t be underestimating the Bulawayo side.
“It’s obviously a big game and we know the challenges we face when we play Highlanders and although in terms of statistics we look good, it will be a new ball game altogether and we will go there and play to the best of our abilities and take maximum points,” he said.