CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town strikers Tashreeq Morris and Prince Nxumalo have an opportunity to spark the team’s turnaround when the Cape side tackles Free State Stars in a PSL fixture at Goble Park in Bethlehem on Wednesday evening (kick-off 7.30pm).
With the Parow-based club in need of some inspiration in front of goal, head coach Stanley Menzo is looking to his forwards for goals. Morris and Nxumalo are the men tasked with making things happen in attack, but both have had medical issues and are struggling to regain their best form.
Nxumalo is probably Ajax’s most natural, instinctive goal-getter, but his battle with epilepsy has been well-documented. In addition, he also picked up an injury that kept him out for a while. He’s back now, and Menzo is hoping the forward can deliver the goods in the penalty area.
When Mitchell’s Plain attacker Morris first joined the PSL squad from the youth academy in 2013, there was great expectation that he would kick on. Initially, he did, and he was among the most consistent performers during Roger de Sa’s tenure as Ajax coach. But injury was to curtail his progress; he had an operation and, together with the rehabilitation period, it kept him out of action for a long time.
He, too, is back playing again - but is struggling to find the form that last year earned him a place in the SA U-23 Olympic squad and a trial at Ajax Amsterdam. But form, as they say, is temporary, class is permanent - for Morris, the best thing is to start scoring again.
Ajax’s current struggles in front of goal are reminiscent of a general problem affecting football in the South Africa. Against an improving Stars on Wednesday night, Menzo needs goals. More than that, he doesn’t only need his team to score more consistently, he also needs the players to be confident and composed in attack.
Over the past few years, starting the season slowly has become a serial issue with Ajax and this current campaign is no different: going into this fixture. The Capetonians are fourth-from-bottom on the PSL standings, having accumulated just five points from six games - one win, two draws and three defeats. Because of this, alarm bells are ringing faintly in the background. It’s not clanging loudly yet, because there’s no need to panic, but a positive result against the Free State club can make all the difference.
For Menzo, the fixture against Stars is the anniversary of his appointment as head coach of Ajax. Appointed to succeed De Sa in October last year, his first assignment in charge was this very same trip to Bethlehem - and it turned out to be quite an eye-opener in his first game in the PSL.
“I remember the bus trip, that’s for sure,” said Menzo about the long drive from the airport to get to Goble Park in Bethlehem in the eastern part of the Free State province. “It was an experience, but at least now I know what to expect. That first PSL game was a 1-1 draw, but now we need the three points.
“It is, in fact, an important week for us. Stars (today) and Bloem Celtic at home at the weekend It’s important for the club and the players that we go for it. We have to work hard and be committed.”