Pretoria – University of Pretoria coach Steve Barker has not ruled out a top-eight finish in this season’s Premiership campaign, but admits it will be a fight which could go down to the wire.
Tuks finished eighth in the league last season, their first in the country’s top-flight, but will need to make headway if they are to manage a top-half conclusion when the Premiership draws to a close.
“We’ve got a chance but there are a lot of teams above us still,” Barker said after his side’s goalless draw with University rivals Wits in Pretoria on Wednesday evening.
“But I do think that if we keep our run, we’re five games unbeaten now, if we can continue this type of form until the end of the season then I definitely think we have a chance.
“I keep reminding myself that the first option is just to ensure that we’re clear and safe and hopefully have four or five games left and then maybe we can play a bit differently.”
AmaTuks continued to impress during the latter stages of the season, extending their unbeaten run, which has seen the Pretoria outfit claim wins over Platinum Stars, Golden Arrows and Soweto giants Orlando Pirates in the space of a month.
Compared to last season, Barker’s troops find themselves in exactly the same spot (10th), but have won less games, conceding the same amount of goals as last season, but scoring one less.
With a tough trip down the road to Mamelodi Sundowns next weekend, Barker said he was hopeful of a strong finish to the season following that game, which includes some of the Premiership-strugglers.
“I’ve always maintained that coming into a league like the Premiership, it’s about growing the club, getting better each and every year and becoming more solid and more consolidated,” Barker said.
“We’re sneaking up there. We’ve got a run after Sundowns of Moroka Swallows, Free State Stars, AmaZulu and Polokwane City.
“So I think that will be a key period of our surge. If we are to get into the top eight, it has to come from those four games of which two are at home and we’ve strong at home.”
With the Nedbank Cup taking place over the weekend, Tuks – who dropped out during the opening round – will have a bit of time to rest and recuperate.
Barker confirmed that the team would be afforded some valuable down-time over the coming days.
“The players need a bit of a rest. We’ve had to stick with the same players that have been playing week in and week out.
“We haven’t made too many changes in the last couple of weeks.
“It was tough against Pirates, tough against Ajax, within two-and-a-half days back, another tough game 1/8against Wits 3/8, so we’ll definitely get the legs up a bit, reflect a bit and come back strong for Mamelodi Sundowns.”
Turning his attention to Wednesday’s stalemate, Barker was full of praise for his defensive outfit, who managed to keep out a fiery Wits line-up, who dominated possession and enjoyed the majority of opportunities to score.
“If you look at the game, we were under a lot of pressure for the majority of the match, so to come out with a point…I am pleased.
“It’s our fourth clean-sheet in the last five games, our third clean-sheet on the trot.
“This is our home ground. We pride ourselves on not getting beaten easily at home, so it was a great battling performance once again...I don’t have enough words of credit for my players in terms of their work ethic.” – Sapa