When Stanley Menzo arrived to take over as head coach of Ajax Cape Town in October last year, his top priority was to get the team to stop conceding silly and unnecessary goals.
To inculcate this attitude into the players, Menzo introduced a simple philosophy: When the game kicks off, you already have one point - make sure you keep it; if you don’t concede, you can’t lose.
It’s taken a while, but the penny appears to have finally dropped. In what has been an erratic season, Ajax have turned things around in the last few weeks and are in a great position to finish the campaign in the top eight. To do so, though, the Cape side has to make sure that it defeats Baroka FC in its final PSL game of the season at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday afternoon (3pm kickoff).
The key to the Ajax turnaround has been the philosophy of Menzo, which is to keep a clean sheet, it’s a point in the bag, while the team then has an opportunity to snatch all three points at the other end. The Capetonians have kept the opposition scoreless in their last four games (three wins and a draw) - and they are determined to do so again on Saturday.
For this “clean sheet” approach to take root, it needs solid central defenders: Step up Rivaldo Coetzee and Roscoe Pietersen. But, even more importantly, it requires a reliable goalkeeper - and it’s here where 22-year-old Brandon Petersen has come to the fore, in not only providing the safety in goal but also permeating the rest of the team with confidence.
It hasn’t been the easiest of seasons for Petersen. But he buckled down, never shirked his team responsibilities, and he’s come out looking good at the end of the campaign.
“I’m definitely feeling good for keeping the four clean sheets,” said Petersen. “I’ve been working hard for it, but I also have to compliment my defence, I think they have been outstanding in the last few games. We’ve been working as a unit at the back and the four clean sheets are a reward for the work we’ve been putting in."
As for Baroka on Saturday, Petersen is fully aware that Ajax cannot expect an easy game, especially because the Polokwane side is desperate to avoid relegation.
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