Pretoria – SuperSport United are in danger of missing out on a top eight league finish for the first time in 14 years and will have to negotiate their way past the last day of the season to know their fate.
United have finished inside the top half of the Premiership table every year since 2000, when the Pretoria outfit finished 10th, but heading into the last game of the current campaign, a loss or draw could see them overtaken by ninth-placed Platinum Stars.
With all the attention on the newly-crowned league champions Mamelodi Sundowns – who eased past SuperSport 3-0 on Tuesday to lift the title – coach Cavin Johnson and his troops snuck under the radar but now know they have it all to play for when they welcome a tricky Polokwane City to Lucas Moripe Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
“We have to go back to the drawing board. Come Saturday, that’s an even bigger game than Sundowns,” Johnson said in the aftermath of United’s 10th defeat of the season, and the third in their last five fixtures.
“That is the ultimate, the fact that we have to win on Saturday, gives us more pressure that we have to go out there and play the best we can.”
Saturday’s dog-fight for a place in the country’s top eight marked somewhat of a capitulation for Johnson’s side, who spent six weeks at the top of the table at the beginning of the season.
Worryingly for Johnson, however, will be the prospect of taking on a Polokwane City outfit who themselves have a massive carrot dangling in front of them.
City find themselves in the thick of a relegation scrap, currently third from bottom, with Free State Stars and Golden Arrows – who have already been condemned to life in the National First Division next season – trailing.
Stars will take part in a playoff for promotion/relegation should the table stay as it is after Saturday’s results, but Polokwane City will have to get a result against SuperSport to guarantee their status in the country’s top-flight next season.
A win for City will secure a place in the Premiership, while a loss or draw could send them below Stars, who will fight to the bitter end to move ahead of City in order to avoid playing in the playoffs.
“It doesn’t make it easier, but we have to be a little bit more aware,” Johnson said of Saturday’s match.
“We have to throw the kitchen sink at them on Saturday and we have to come out with everything that we have.
“We’re not worried about them, we’re worried about ourselves and it’s about getting the three points on Saturday.” – Sapa