Ajax need a firebrand in midfield

ct spttrav Gallo Images BE A MONGREL: Ajax Cape Towns midfielderTravis Graham fights for the ball against Golden Arrows on Sunday. Ajax coach Jan Pruijn will be hoping his players can show the same commitment against SuperSport United tomorrow night. Photo: Gallo Images

John Goliath

AJAX CAPE TOWN’S dismal away form has been a big reason for the team’s woeful run in the league during the first half of the season.

A solitary victory and a draw from their eight matches on the road so far this season is a statistic of relegation proportions. And travelling to their least favourite venue – Polokwane’s Peter Mokaba Stadium – to face SuperSport United tomorrow, this record is bound to get worse.

Ajax have never won at the stadium, and have shown a distinct lack of commitment every time they have played at the venue named after the late ANC firebrand.

The players’ commitment away from the comforts of Ikamva and the Cape Town Stadium has come into question more than once already this season. Last season, Ajax boasted the worst disciplinary record in terms of yellow and red cards. This season they average less than two yellow cards a game.

Interim coach Jan Pruijn has especially complained about the lack of fire on the field. Not that the Dutch mentor wants his players to break legs, he just wants his guys to compete for the ball in a fair, but aggressive manner.

This Ajax team seem to be a soft touch, and they lack a bit of mongrel away from home.

Youngsters like Travis Graham and Toriq Losper have shown great composure, anticipation and skill in the middle of the park for Ajax, but sometimes you need a bit of a bullterrier in midfield, especially in front of the back four, to throw his weight around and disrupt the opposition.

Ajax’s back four has been exposed on too many occasions because the second ball had not been dealt with. The opposition seem to be a lot more keener when going for those balls in and around the penalty area.

Going into a match against a well-organised and committed SuperSport side is the sort of encounter which this current Ajax outfit will dread.

Gavin Hunt’s team like to play a direct style of football, which Ajax have struggled to deal with on the road in the past. The home side can also mix it up, playing it wide or through the middle, but it’s in the air where they will pose the biggest threat.

Ajax will be especially vulnerable if beanpole defenders Matthew Booth and Thulani Hlatshwayo are not available. The duo didn’t feature in the 2-0 away defeat to Golden Arrows on Sunday, which left a massive void in the backline.


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