JOHANNESBURG – The Buccaneers tripped on a banana peel in the form of Dikwena in a 1-1 draw on Wednesday night, with Saturday’s Soweto Derby against their arch-rivals Kaizer Chiefs at the back of their minds.
The fall from that trip wasn’t that bad as Pirates still managed to get a point, even though they were looking for all three against the struggling Phokeng-based club.
The Ghost even vetoed Issa Sarr’s introduction, showing their desire for a win by voicing their displeasure after the Senegalese hardman was called by the bench with just under 20 minutes remaining.
The Ghost wanted to either see a goal or the introduction of a player who can add to their attack, not the defensive Sarr.
Pirates’ technical team listened and Sarr was sent back. Lyle Foster ended up being the club’s last substitute, much to the displeasure of the fans as the young forward replaced Thabo Qalinge, who was the host’s liveliest player.
Pirates coach Milutin “Micho” Sredojevic had tweaked the defence that’s been solid so far.
The Serbian handed 22-year-old centreback Lehlohonolo Mtshali his debut, partnering him with Abbubaker Mobara – as Pirates were without the injured Happy Jele – while Ntsikelelo Nyauza was shifted from centreback to his familiar right back position.
That defence was hardly tested by the visitors, who are shy in front of goal. Dikwena came into this match rooted at the bottom with just two goals from their opening seven matches.
Bonginkosi Ntuli gave Dikwena their third goal after he caught Pirates’ defenders napping.
Ntuli’s goal was a quick response to the Buccaneers, who had taken the lead through captain Thabo Matlaba immediately after halftime.
Sredojevic had decided to take the game to the visitors in the second half by sacrificing Musa Nyatama in a midfield that the hosts easily controlled.
Thabiso Kutumela took Nyatama’s place and brought more impetus to Pirates’ attack, opening the space that allowed Matlaba to unleash his famous thunderbolt.
The paltry crowd that crammed into this venue only livened up after those two goals. This stadium was so quiet at first that the players probably heard the overzealous radio commentators from the empty stands.
But the Buccaneers will walk into a completely different picture on Saturday for the Soweto Derby here. Every seat of this stadium that can accommodate just over 96 000 people is likely to have an occupant.
The looming Soweto Derby tested the Buccaneers’ mental strength as they still had a game to take care of before facing Amakhosi, who are on a high after they stunned African champions Mamelodi Sundowns in their own backyard.
Pirates failed to bully a team that are low in confidence, are still searching for their first win and look like early candidates to get the chop.
This match was further proof that the Buccaneers haven’t completely turned the corner from their disastrous showing in the last campaign.
But the Soweto giants have shown enough signs that they aren’t going to fall into the pit that sucked them into their worst showing in the Premier Soccer League era.
Chiefs will offer Pirates their biggest test so far in an unpredictable match that can turn things around for the winners.
A win for the Amakhosi will see Steve Komphela breathe a sigh of relief in a week that’s been a baptism of fire.
A win for the Buccaneers, though, will give them confidence as they look to exorcise the demons that haunted them last season.