Highlands Park’s coach Owen Da Gama has pleaded with the naysayers not to quickly write them off after failing to hit a single shot on target in their 1-1 draw against Orlando Pirates last night at Orlando Stadium.
Highlands Park needed a howler from goalkeeper Wayne Sandilands to snatch away a point from last season’s runners-up Pirates. After a back-pass from Gladwin Shitolo, Sandilands – who was closer to his goal line – tried to clear the ball that was intended for his right foot, with his left, and totally miskicked it, hence, it sneaked into the back of the net.
“We had seven players who played for the first time in the Absa Premiership,’’ Da Gama said. “To me that is what football is about, creating new stars. And not just recycling players and bringing those that have been there. I’ve always believed in youth and trying to nurture young talent and new players. But I am really proud of some of our boys. It was a really good learning curve for some of us.”
He went on: “In all fairness, these stats that people pick up, they help us to reflect on whether we are going the wrong way or right one. We certainly appreciate all these stats and we’ll go back to the drawing board and work on them.”
The Lions of the North were without the services of midfielder Mothobi Mvala and striker Peter Shalulile. Mvala was out serving a suspension from last season while Shalulile is still nursing an injury. The duo were an integral part of the Tembisa-based club high scoring ratio in the National First Division (NFD) last campaign as they scored 65 goals. Although, there’s a huge gap between the two divisions, Da Gama is banking on the return of the duo to have a huge impact in the team going forward.
With Mvala back in the next game, I think he’ll add a lot in our firepower, ’’he said. “I still maintain that we truly miss our top-goal scorer Peter Shalulile. We’ve been trying to bring other players but it will take time before they fit in. It’s a process. I’d rather start somewhere and end somewhere than try to be fly-by-nights. So we are hoping to improve our shots at goals in the next matches.’’