JOHANNESBURG – With three matches before their Absa Premiership campaign ends, Kaizer Chiefs coach Ernst Middendorp is aware that his charges have to put on their scoring boots, while being sound defensively, if they are to finish in a continental spot or in the top eight for that matter.
Chiefs are seventh on the log - 12 points behind pacesetters Orlando Pirates and three clear of eighth-placed Highlands Park.
However their last three matches have been disappointing, collecting two points out of nine.
They might have been impressive in the Nedbank Cup, where they’ll face National First Division side TS Galaxy in the final at Moses Mabhida Stadium on May 18. A win will put them in the Caf Confederations Cup.
But Chiefs’ hoodoo against minnows will stop their discerning supporters from counting their chickens before they hatch in their quest to end their three-year trophy drought.
Moreover, those supporters will probably have flash-backs that Middendorp’s main reason to be sacked in his first stint was his inability to lead his charges to a top eight finish in 2007.
“It’s totally a disappointing (result),” Middendorp said after their 1-1 draw with Golden Arrows on Tuesday night at FNB Stadium.
“We had clear opportunities before we conceded, especially considering that we also hit the crossbar three times. Despite coming from Saturday’s game (a 4-2 victory against Chippa United in the Nedbank semi-finals), players like Dax (Andrianarimanana) and Bernard's (Parker) decision making was not right.
“Final pass must be precise. In terms of defence, you can compensate a bit more. For us it’s not enough, but it’s not the first time.”
The two points Chiefs dropped against Arrows followed the two they dropped against Black Leopards. Before that they lost to Baroka FC, which resulted in them falling out of contention for the league.
Middendorp, who rejoined the team mid-December, was likely bound to find the going tough leading up to the last lap of the season, considering that integral players were mostly in the medical room nursing long-term injuries.
However he was boosted by the return of Joseph Malongoane to action against Arrows following a horrendous injury in August.
Players such as captain Itumeleng Khune and Eric Mathoho are likely going to sit out for the remainder of the season. The German tactician, however, has crossed his fingers to have Lebogang Manyama back in contention before May 18.
“Lebogang Manyama is one of the most qualified players in terms of where he has to come in decision making, passing and finishing. It’s absolutely very disappointing that we still have to wait. But we’ll have to wait because of the muscle issue and he’ll be out for the weekend.
“Probably, against Free State (Stars) is when he’ll come back and get some minutes,” Middendorp explained.
While they have the most followers in the country, Chiefs’ supporters’ attendance at FNB Stadium have been disappointing this season.
Middendorp is also aware of this fact and has vowed that they’ll do enough to give their fans reason to attend their matches at the venue next season.@Mihlalibaleka