CAPE TOWN – Stanley Menzo’s willingness to provide opportunities for emerging young footballers at Ajax Cape Town paid dividends yet again, when rookie Neo Makua won the Man-of-the-Match award in the Cape side’s 2-0 win over Bloemfontein Celtic on Saturday.
It was just reward for 23-year-old Makua’s patience and hard work. He hasn’t seen much game time since signing for Ajax from Wits last year, but he took his opportunity well on Saturday.
Neighbours Ajax Cape Town and Cape Town City have clear and firm ambitions as they prepare for the penultimate round of fixtures in the PSL on Wednesday.
City host Golden Arrows at Athlone Stadium (7.30pm kickoff), with the primary objective of ensuring they finish third on the standings. Ajax are in Soweto where they face Orlando Pirates at Orlando Stadium (7.30pm kickoff) – and their aim is to secure a top-eight finish.
Importantly, as Ajax prepare for Pirates on Wednesday, the Soweto club, currently in 10th on the standings, also have their eye on a top-eight finish. It should add some spice to the fixture.
If anything, the one positive of Stanley Menzo’s tenure at Ajax is his confidence in youth. Already, since taking over as coach, Grant Margeman has made rapid progress, while youngsters like Makua, Yagan Sasman, Shane Saralina and Masilakhe Pholongo have all had a chance to play in the PSL.
With the benefit of his experience over the last few months, Ajax will be expecting a lot more from Menzo next season.
“It was only Makua’s second start in the team,” said Menzo. “But his runs were good, he worked hard and his attitude was great. He won the best player award, and that is good for a young player.
“But the whole team played well Diva (Mdabuka) was incredible, the two central defenders (Roscoe Pietersen and Rivaldo Coetzee) were very good and Prince’s (Nxumalo) runs were excellent.”
Ajax have staged a remarkable late recovery. Just a few weeks ago, they were in danger of being dragged into the relegation zone – now, after three consecutive wins, they are in eighth position on the PSL table, and looking very good indeed.
Meanwhile, in the other half of Cape Town, for City, nothing matters but a third-placed finish.
As it stands at the top, Wits lead with 57 points, followed by Mamelodi Sundowns on 55 and City on 52.
So, as it is, it’s third place that City coach Eric Tinkler is focusing on. The Cape side’s outstanding debut campaign has been built on unity and an unshakable team ethic, especially because they don’t have the depth in quality as other top PSL clubs, and this is also why the presence of certain individuals has been vital.
It was abundantly evident in that defeat to SuperSport last week, when winger Aubrey Ngoma and central defender Robyn Johannes were missed.
The duo return for Wednesday’s clash with Arrows – and it’s certainly a fixture City can ill-afford to lose, if they want to finish in third.