Stellies fired up to battle Amakhosi
Stellies punched above their weight when hosting the Buccaneers last month and silenced the Pirates supporters who numbered over 15,000 with the only goal of the game in the 21st minute struck by in-form striker Iqraam Rayners.
It was a gutsy performance from Steve Barker’s boys, who, he says, aren’t afraid of any side in the division.
“We showed character, we fought hard, we soaked up constant pressure and got the job done that few thought we could do,” said Barker on reflection.
The Winelands-based side completed back-to-back victories but next time out were brought down to earth in a 2-0 defeat at AmaZulu for their fourth loss in 11 outings.
Barker felt his charges never played anywhere near their best on the day and paid the price.
They then were held to a goalless draw at home by Highlands Park before going into the international break in 14th place on the 16-team table.
It’s given Barker a couple of weeks to sort out some of the faults that crept into their play, especially in defence.
“We can’t afford to slip-up at the back against a side like Chiefs who have plenty of fire-power at the front of their formation,” said Barker. “The return from injury of Nyiko Mobbie strengthens our last line, which has been able to keep clean sheets when working as one. Chiefs are strong at the back, they’ve only conceded seven goals, but if you saw the way they defended in going down 2-1 to Maritzburg United on Sunday in the Telkom Knockout semi-finals, you can hurt them if you get the ball behind their wall. They were missing some big-name players in this regard it must be said.
“You can expect my players to be fired-up for yet another historic game. To knock over two of the giants of domestic football would be an amazing accomplishment,” he added.
Marc van Heerden has been one of the unsung heroes for Stellies. The former AmaZulu and Pirates defender has been a revelation at left-back, earning praise from Barker who described the 31-year-old as the consummate professional who goes about his business without much fanfare.
“He brings a ton of top-flight experience to the table and his work ethic is second to none. He’s always busy, whether going backward or forward, and those charges down his side of the field have created chances for the two strikers Rayners and Waseem Isaacs.”
Meanwhile, 13th placed Cape Town City will be out to end a winless run on the road at Bloemfontein Celtic. The Citizens’ two wins to date from 11 outings were registered at home, one of them against Stellies in round two (1-0). City completed the league double over Celtic last season.
Mike de Bruyn