Johannesburg – Kaizer Chiefs have struggled at times this season, Stuart Baxter’s side not sparkling thus far as they did en route to the 2012/13 double.
Yet the fact remains that if Amakhosi can win their final two league games of 2013, they will go into the New Year once again on top of the Absa Premiership.
Amakhosi’s dull, dogged victory over University of Pretoria on Reconciliation Day, their fourth league win in a row, leaves them trailing Mamelodi Sundowns only on goal difference.
With the scheduling of this year’s fixtures even more erratic than usual, Sundowns have just one game left before Christmas, and Chiefs two, meaning Baxter’s side can put some clear daylight between themselves and their rivals, with wins at Golden Arrows tomorrow, and at AmaZulu on Sunday.
“I wasn’t satisfied with the way we ran out in some earlier games, and I went on record saying we were too inconsistent,” said Baxter after the Tuks game.
“We showed a bit of that inconsistency tonight and that doesn’t please me.
“But we want to be within striking distance going into the New Year.
“Even if we have played more games being top of the league is certainly a position I wouldn’t mind having. (But) it is a long season and it is never easy to win a league.”
Chiefs were far from their best against Tuks, failing to embellish on Knowledge Musona’s sixth minute goal, though they dominated the opening half.
In the second period, Amakhosi faded badly, and a better side than Tuks might have made more of some decent attacking positions.
“It was going to be a challenge to hit the ground running,” said Baxter, following Chiefs’ first game since November 30.
“But I thought in the first half we managed to do that. We played some excellent football, got an early goal and had the game where we wanted ... To show more composure and not get carried away with ourselves was the message at half time … (but) we didn’t pitch up in the second half and Tuks did.
“They put us under pressure … they had opportunities and didn’t take them. The second half was disappointing … I’m pleased with the win but we must improve.”
Chiefs have been trying to add to their squad for next year, with an African Champions League campaign to consider in particular.
However, given special dispensation by the Premier Soccer League to look for a player between the beginning of this month and the 12th, before the transfer window officially opens at the start of January, Amakhosi have not brought anyone in.
Striker Lebohang Manyama of Ajax Cape Town seemed to be on his way after Ajax and Chiefs agreed a fee, only for the player to pull the plug on the deal.
“We have been active (in the market), some have been documented, some not,” said Baxter.
“One of the problems when you get special dispensation is that everyone knows and every player gets a bit more expensive.
“I know we have not thrown everything away yet (with Manyama), we must keep on going, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work.”
Chiefs will begin their Champions League campaign next year against Black Africa of Namibia.
“When we went to Botswana (for a friendly in November) we should have been playing that team, but it got cancelled and we went to Botswana instead,” said Baxter.
“With my immense knowledge of Namibian football, I will have to do my homework on them,” joked the Chiefs coach.
“Hopefully in the first couple of games, it will be about how we apply ourselves and do our job properly, and if we get through, the opposition will get stronger and the places we visit a bit more tricky.”