Thulani Hlatshwayo savours the moment after scoring the decisive goal for Wits against Highlands Park on Friday night. Photo: Muzi Ntombela/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Wits consolidated their position at the top of the Premiership standings after scrapping out a 1-0 win over Highlands Park at the Bidvest Stadium on Friday night.

The opening 45 minutes saw neither team able to find much rhythm and fluency, while the second half was dominated by Highlands Park as they tried to fight back after Bafana Bafana captain Thulani Hlatshwayo had given Gavin Hunt’s team the lead seven minutes before the interval.

The visitors made a decent start, but struggled to find penetration with their passes in the final third of the field – much to the frustration of coach Owen da Gama, and instead it was the Clever Boys who began to take hold of the game around the 15-minute mark.

After a couple of half chances, Wits were nearly in front in the 28th minute when Simon Murray nodded down the ball for Mxolisi Macuphu, who under pressure from two defenders, struck the post from close range.

The deadlock was broken just 10 minutes later thanks to Hlatshwayo’s superbly-taken glancing header from a Keegan Ritchie free kick.

Wits keeper Darren Keet had work to do just before the break in keeping out Mothobi Mvala from a tight angle.

And the pressure continued to come from Highlands Park after the restart as Mvala went agonisingly close with an audacious long-range effort, before Moeketsi Sekola dragged an angled shot wide with the far corner of the net beckoning.

The Students found themselves under increasing pressure as the Lions of the North attacked relentlessly, and home defender Lehlohonolo Nonyane looked fortunate to see yellow and not red 17 minutes from time when he clattered into Thabo Motlafi’s thigh.

Despite all their efforts, it was only in added time that Highlands Park really threatened, as Sphiwe Mahlangu miscued a volley right in front of goal, before Mlungisi Mbunjana fired one venomous drive inches over the crossbar and sent another effort wide of the upright.

Wits, though, were able to hold on for the win, which extends their lead at the top of the table to four points over Orlando Pirates, who play Kaizer Chiefs in the Soweto Derby on Saturday.

African News Agency (ANA)