Stellenbosch FC have top eight in their sights, says Steve Barker
CAPE TOWN - Stellenbosch FC coach Steve Barker is keeping his team's feet firmly on the ground after a positive start to 2021, but is willing to entertain thoughts of a possible top eight finish.
The Maroon Machine have come out firing in the New Year, picking up four points from their first two games after a win over TTM and draw against Black Leopards. Although Barker would no doubt have wanted a victory over struggling Leopards too, it was enough too see Stellenbosch climb up the ladder into seventh place.
"The goal has always been to be better than we were last season and so far, we're on track," Barker said.
"I think it would be too early to talk about a top eight finish but that certainly is the target. I don't see why we can't achieve that.
"We've just got to continue working hard, continue to trust our processes, and continue to be consistent - by doing that with determination, resilience and commitment - we'll reap the fruits of our labour come the end of the season."
Stellies will have another opportunity to take a step closer to their goal when they face Bloemfontein Celtic this weekend at the Dr Petrus Molemela Stadium.
Celtic have had a busy week with the distraction of their rescheduled CAF Confederation Cup second preliminary round second leg fixture on the weekend of January 22-24 against Nigeria's Rivers United FC hanging over their heads, while they also faced SuperSport United at the Lucas Moripe Stadium yesterday afternoon.
Barker and his management team have, however, had time to recuperate after their two matches and prepare timeously for Saturday's clash.
Assistant Stellies coach Wesley Sergel, though, knows the trip to Manguang will not be an easy one.
"Celtic are a difficult team to come up against, especially at home. It will be a difficult trip but an opportunity for the players to test themselves again, and an opportunity to bounce back, so we'll go there with confidence and we'll look to bring back the points," Sergel said.
Barker's squad has also been boosted with the return of Zitha Macheke from suspension with the star defender available for the game against Celtic again.
Club captain Robyn Johannes is also back at training after his injury along with Junior Mendieta and Lelethu Skelem. The trio will all be assessed closer to match day with a final call made on their fitness prior to departure.
Stellies will, of course, be without Marc van Heerden, who suffered a dislocated elbow in the game against Black Leopards.