Cape Town - Swallows’ alarming deficiency this season has been their anaemic display in the striking zone, and unless they beef up their attack for the upcoming play-offs they will be winging their way to the second-tier GladAfrica Championship.
A week ago, Swallows settled for a draw against Kaizer Chiefs when they could so easily have won, but for their inability to convert scoring chances. In the total shots on goal count, Swallows were ahead 18-6. In the corner count, Swallows were well ahead with an 11-1 margin and these statistics point to Swallows' superior attacking ability in the match.
Swallows FC coach Dylan Kerr said these statistics were par for the course in many matches of late. He concluded Swallows have been beset by a curse in recent weeks.
In the PSL promotion/relegation play-offs, which start on Sunday, Swallows, who finished in 15th place in the DStv Premiership standings, will be joined by GladAfrica Championship runners-up the University of Pretoria and Cape Town All-Stars, who ended in third place.
Each team will play on a home and away basis, and the three-team mini round-robin event ends on Wednesday, 15 June. The team finishing with the most points will be the 16th team in next season's elite league.
The record books show that in the last three seasons, the Premiership sides managed to win the event and hang on to their Premiership status. However, this outcome over the past three seasons is vastly different since the 2004/2005 season when play-offs were first played.
In the 17 mini-tournaments since then, First Division pipped the Premiership sides 10 times to win promotion.
Swallows will start out as favourites and were more recently in action, which helps their match fitness and sharpness. They came within a whisker of missing the play-offs, but they allowed Chiefs to score an equaliser five minutes before the final whistle.
Sunday's curtain-raiser at Cape Town's Athlone Stadium will be an all-First Division affair between All-Stars and AmaTuks (University of Pretoria), who four years ago played in the Premiership.
AmaTuks were at one stage the First Division pace-setters and a few weeks ago defeated eventual GladAfrica Championship winners Richards Bay. However, their form slumped somewhat as the season wound to a close.
Tlisane Motaung, the AmaTuks coach, has had to cope with recent setbacks like injuries to key players and stomach bug infections which unsettled the team in their final matches this season. The team has recovered well, and they are ready to claim a place in the Premiership.
Midfielder Luvuyo Phewa (10 goals this season) and central defender Keegan Allan have been pillars of strength in the team's 4-4-2 formation, and their consistent performances were noted in the Nedbank Cup competition.
AmaTuks were defeated by Royal AM in the quarter-finals after they disposed of Premiership side Chippa United in an earlier round.
Deservedly, Phewa and Allan are both nominees in the Nedbank Cup's 'Most Promising Player' category. The winners will be announced on live television on Sunday evening.
Cape Town All Stars are the underdogs in the event and were four points (on 48 points) adrift of AmaTuks (52) when the GladAfrica Championship season ended.
The side is coached by Allan Freese, who has already held several coaching positions at Premiership clubs like Platinum Stars, Highlands Park and AmaZulu.
Freese has already experienced one mini play-off tournament in the 2015/16 season when he steered Highlands Park to win the event and gain promotion.
The former Ajax Cape Town midfielder Ndiviwe Mdabuka has been at the heart of the team's surge to the upper reaches of the First Division standings. He has been the side's most prolific scorer with 11 goals and has proved to be reliable from the penalty spot. Some of the play-offs may be decided on penalties and he could prove to be a match-winner.
The full list of fixtures (all start 3pm), Sunday:
Cape Town All Stars v University of Pretoria, Athlone Stadium
Wednesday, June 1
Swallows v Cape Town All Stars – Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium
Saturday, June 4
University of Pretoria v Swallows – Tuks Stadium
Wednesday, June 8
University of Pretoria v Cape Town All Stars – Tuks Stadium
Saturday, June 11
Cape Town All Stars v Swallows – Danie Craven Stadium
Wednesday, June 15
Swallows v University of Pretoria – Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium