Ajax Cape Town have to beware the impish devil of complacency, if they think that a home fixture to finish their PSL programme against basement club Baroka will resemble a Sunday morning kick-about.
The sides meet in their league finale at the Cape Town Stadium at 3pm on Saturday, and if the Urban Warriors are anticipating a cakewalk, they could be in for a rude awakening.
The bottom of the PSL standings is a veritable traffic jam with regards to points. As it stands, any one of five clubs could be in the last-placed relegation position, or finish in the second-last, promotion playoff spot.
There is so much at stake – and Baroka, rest assured, will be coming to Cape Town with determination etched in every pore.
Meanwhile, Cape Town City are on the road on Saturday to take on Polokwane City. Their third position is secure – but if City win and Mamelodi Sundowns come unstuck against Highlands Park, it will open up the way for a second-placed finish for the Cape side.
Ajax’s match could provide another opportunity for midfielder Neo Makua to showcase his skills.
Patience and opportunity are central to any footballer keen to make a career in the top-flight. Armed with both these traits, Makua was able to, finally, force his way into the Ajax starting team. And what an introduction it has turned out to be...
When 18-year-old Grant Margeman left with the South Africa Under-20s to participate in the junior World Cup in South Korea, it opened up a slot in the Cape side’s midfield.
Ajax coach Stanley Menzo hasn’t been shy to offer rookies the chance to shine and, this time, it was 23-year-old Makua who benefited.
While the emerging midfielder is focused on his own performance, he is just as aware of the overall team objective – which is to finish in a top-eight position.
As it stands, Maritzburg United are seventh with 37 points, followed by Ajax on 36, Golden Arrows 35, Platinum Stars 34 and Orlando Pirates 33. There’s still all to play for – and the Cape side can ill-afford to slip-up.
“We obviously need to win,” said Makua. “We want to make it to the top eight, that is our goal, and that makes the three points our main priority against Baroka.”
Makua is from Soweto and played for Jomo Cosmos and Wits, before former Ajax coach Roger de Sa invited the player down to the Mother City for a trial. Impressed with what he saw, De Sa signed Makua in August last year.
But, with De Sa quitting Ajax three months later and Menzo stepping in, it was always going to be tough for Makua to get going. He had to start from scratch with regards to convincing the new coach.
But he buckled down. He worked hard, remained patient, and continued to believe in his ability. And, in recent weeks, all the sacrifice and toil has paid off.
“I’m very happy to have been given an opportunity,” said Makua. “I’ve been waiting a long time, I’ve worked hard, and I’m just glad the coach has given me the chance to show what I can offer the team.
“The man-of-the-match award (against Bloemfontein Celtic) was good, but I’m not getting carried away with it. I’m just taking things game by game. To be honest, when I first got into the team, I was pretty nervous. But I think I’m getting better and more confident with every game, I hope it’s just a taste of what is still to come.”
After being in the doldrums for much of the year, Ajax have finally come good. They are unbeaten in their last four games (three wins and a draw) – and they are confident they can maintain the momentum against Baroka on Saturday.
PSL final day programme (All games at 3pm)
Saturday: Ajax Cape Town v Baroka FC (Cape Town Stadium); Polokwane City v Cape Town City; Kaizer Chiefs v Bidvest Wits; SuperSport United v Platinum Stars; Golden Arrows v Orlando Pirates; Free State Stars v Chippa United; Maritzburg Utd v Bloemfontein Celtic; Highlands Park v Mamelodi Sundowns.