JOHANNESBURG – Gavin Hunt wants more players if Bidvest Wits are going to improve in continental football following their elimination from the CAF Champions League and relegation to the Confederation Cup group stage playoffs at the weekend.
To be more specific, the coach said he was short of strikers having seen his forwards squander chance after chance over two legs against Primeiro de Agosto of Angola, who are the ones progressing to the group stages of the Champions League after beating the Clever Boys 3-2 on penalties.
In Luanda two weeks ago, Wits suffered a narrow 1-0 defeat to Agosto, although they were the better side by some distance.
On Saturday evening in the return leg at the Bidvest Stadium, it was more of the same as Hunt watched his men huff and puff, managing a late goal by Elias Pelembe to level the score on aggregate and force the tie into extra time.
Lehlohonolo Majoro, Pelembe and Daine Klate missed their spot kicks and the visitors claimed victory on the lottery of penalty shoot-outs.
“Any coach would go to the chairman and ask for three strikers, that’s how you solve the problem,” said a frustrated Hunt after the match.
“But that isn’t happening with us. We’ve got what we have got and we need to move on. I think we had enough chances to win the game, but we just didn’t bury them.
“What we needed was the kind of experience shown by Pelembe in taking his goal. Absolutely brilliant. To be his age (34) and score a goal like that shows he can still play.
“We needed more like that on the day, but it didn’t happen for us.”
Hunt did get two forwards in at the club in January to help turn an awful first round of their domestic season around after Wits were bottom of the log at Christmas. The Clever Boys, reigning league champions, have managed to move up the table to ninth place since.
Majoro and Thobani Mncwango - free agents - arrived from Cape Town City and Polokwane City respectively.
The former has scored four goals in nine matches, while Mncwango has yet to open his account. Amr Gamal, the Egyptian striker on loan from Al Ahly, has fallen down the pecking order, only impressing upon his arrival and then losing his place in the team.
It’s obviously a concern for Hunt.
“This is why I say we are punching way above our weight (with the squad they’ve got). The Gamal thing was just a disaster for us.
“The goals he missed for us this season; I have never seen a guy miss so many goals. And we are where we are because of the goals we missed this year.
“It is frightening the goals he missed - he should be 20 goals by now, this season,” the coach said, “But you know, you take a gamble. You take a chance. It didn’t work, but we just need to do better.”
The Confederation Cup, which Wits have now been relegated to and will wait for Wednesday’s draw to see who they take on in the play-offs for the group stages, is a bit of a booby prize.
“Well, I will go with the mandate of the club, whatever the club tells me to do I will do it,” said Hunt.
“We are going to fall behind with (domestic) games because we will have to play again two weeks from now. We knew that. But now we could end up anywhere and we will be wary. But we will see.”