CAPE TOWN - Ajax Cape Town won’t have any time to bask in the glow of Wednesday’s vital 1-0 win over Wits because the next challenge is already upon them.
The Cape side is in Port Elizabeth on Sunday for another hugely-important PSL clash when they tackle Chippa United at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (3pm kickoff).
While Wednesday’s three points added to Ajax’s tally, they are still not out of danger. As it stands in the basement of the league standings, with four games to go, Platinum Stars prop things up with 21 points, Ajax on 27, SuperSport United on 28, Polokwane City on 30 and Golden Arrows on 31.
The team finishing last will be relegated to the NFD, while the side ending second-last goes into a promotion/relegation playoff with the teams finishing second and third on the NFD log. The dogfight to avoid the two bottom places is likely to go all the way to the last game, which is why Ajax need to maintain the momentum of Wednesday’s victory.
The big thing, of course, is the Capetonians’ away form; they’ve picked up just three points on the road the entire season and it’s the key reason why they’re in the precarious position they are. As Ajax prepare to head for PE, coach Muhsin Ertugral was fully aware of the issue, but was confident that they could come away with something.
“The most important aspect is to first see how much the players left on the field against Wits on Wednesday,” said the Turkish coach. “I have to check on the energy levels and see whether I may have to freshen things up.
"I think our problems away from home are mostly psychological. I talk a lot to the players and I’m the type of coach that wants players to talk back; so they open up a lot to me and I believe it’s the feeling, the pressure, that has affected the players.
“While the win against Wits was good, it was only a step. I’m not relieved as yet - because the next game (against Chippa on Sunday) is very important.”
Ertugral was, however, very happy with the manner in which his team performed against Wits - and, more importantly, the way they effectively carried out the game plan.
“It wasn’t a beauty contest, the game was about giving everything,” said the Ajax coach after the win against Wits on Wednesday. “The organisation, how we played, how we executed the plans were all good. After we scored, we had to go backwards and let them have the ball.
"The boys did well to block their zones and close down the half-spaces. They could still come at us, but they never really had any clear chances. Wits couldn’t get in and we knew that we would have the opportunity for counter-attacks. I was very happy with the team’s energy, we got to the second balls and were good in aerial duels.
“Now we have to keep that momentum. We have to use that same energy when we play Chippa - and it will be a different game because we are coming up against a side who also likes to play counter-attack football.”
With four games remaining for Ajax - Chippa (away), Baroka FC (home), Mamelodi Sundowns (away) and Kaizer Chiefs (home) - there is no margin for error for Ertugral and his men. And, if ever they needed to show up for an away game, Sunday against Chippa is it.
Meanwhile, Cape Town City host SuperSport at Cape Town Stadium on Saturday night (8.15pm kickoff) - and they can do neighbours Ajax a huge favour with a win over the struggling, third-from-bottom Pretoria club.