JOHANNESBURG - Orlando Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic has called on fans to back Thamsanqa Gabuza, arguing they won’t regret it as the striker will repay them immensely for putting their faith in him.
The much-maligned forward easily did in one night on Saturday what he laboured to get in 19 league matches in the past campaign. That is to score two goals. His second goal against Polokwane City rescued the Buccaneers from defeat, settling for a point in a 2-2 draw. That performance earned him a Man-of-the-Match award and in his post-match interview, Gabuza touched on the fans who constantly boo him - saying it felt good to make them happy.
“He has the heart of a lion,” Sredojevic said. “It’s not easy to wear this jersey. This jersey has 80 years of history and millions of supporters. Whatever he missed, he repaid with the two goals he scored.
"Last season he scored two goals. This is his third goal (in six matches in this campaign). I want to find the mechanism - together with the technical team, management and the players - to get the best out of him.
"I also ask for patience from the supporters so that we can give him confidence because he will, 100 percent, repay us for that. He wants to deliver and he wants to give his best.”
But the Buccaneers’ forwards haven’t constantly showed their best. City had to give them a scare for Pirates to score two goals for the first time in one match in this campaign. Gabuza has led that attack with support from Lyle Forster and Zambian Justin Shonga, who made his debut against Polokwane.
“Our attack is very much of a concern but you can’t be hard on the players for missing chances,” Sredojevic said. “That’s why I wasn’t hard on them at halftime. My approach is, ‘okay, we have created the chances (and haven’t scored) forget about it.
"We need to find the medicine on how to close down counter-attacks quickly. We need to find the medicine on how to have better build up. We absolutely need to find the right medicine to cure our problem of not converting enough.”
City also exposed the Buccaneers’ defensive frailties, stretching their new-look fullbacks and exploiting the holes in central defence. Despite the positive start, Pirates still remain a work-in progress.
Their defence has yet to become an impregnable fortress while their creative display could do with an improvement and their attack needs to be more ruthless.
“We saw patience, effort and respect from our players towards the badge,” Sredojevic said. “They played until the end of the game. They didn’t give up and had a never-say die attitude, which is our character and culture...This is the character of big teams. We wanted to dominate. We dominated, created chances but didn’t score.
"When you have the defence line very high and you aren’t covering your fullbacks, and you’re playing against fast players like RamaG (Rodney Ramagalela) and others who have punished that vulnerability, you will struggle.
"We need to make some corrections going into the international break. Keep up what is good, dominating our opponents and creating chances. But we also need to fix our defensive aspect and improve our scoring ratio.”