JOHANNESBURG – This was far from gripping. Slow, laboured and with Gavin Hunt as animated as ever.
But the 1-0 Telkom Knockout quarter-final victory over Baroka FC, as narrow as it was, should go some way in building back the confidence Bidvest Wits have clearly lost since their Premier League triumph almost six months ago.
The Clever Boys have been out of place as their league position currently (second from bottom) reflects.
Often cup form doesn’t matter – you just need to get through to the next phase, and Wits have now put their name in the semi-final fixtures later this month.
But the way they have been going at it, or not going at it, depending how you look at the situation, coach Hunt would have wanted a far more convincing showing.
The only man that seems to be sparing them from their blushes lately is striker Amr Gamal, the Egyptian who is on a season-long loan from Al Ahly.
He scored the only goal of the match here on Saturday night and did so quite early on in the game when Vincent Pule set him up to break the deadlock just 11 minutes into this cup tie.
Wits had looked a side determined to bounce back from their 2-0 midweek league defeat in their own backyard against Chippa United.
The early lead settled the nerves and suggested it might be a bit of a stroll taking down this Baroka FC outfit, who are log leaders after 10 games. And Wits could have perhaps put the game beyond the visitors in the first half.
Congrats to Vincent Pule, Man of the Match. #TelkomKnockOut
They weren’t that clinical, but certainly had more opportunities than the opposition to kill the game off. In the second half, however, they were incredibly lacklustre and allowed Baroka in on several occasions.
The visitors should have at least pushed this clash into extra time.
Hunt had tinkered with the team yet again – making three changes from the loss against Chippa on Wednesday night.
Bongani Khumalo stepped aside for Reeve Frosler, while Thabang Monare returned to action in the place of Xola Mlambo and Phumlani Ntshangase was picked ahead of Granwald Scott.
Hunt had said in an interview prior to this cup fixture that he wanted the Clever Boys to return back to basics. But this performance was almost too basic.
This wasn’t the aggressive and confident Wits who were so dominating back in May, and they have not been that at all this season.
They have at least now beaten Baroka twice, having gotten one over them by the same scoreline two weeks ago in Polokwane.
Pule had also scored early in that match a goal that was a carbon copy of the one Gamal netted here for his fifth for Wits since arriving on loan.
Wits march on to the last four, but Hunt summed it all up when he screamed “this is why we are not going to win the league” in frustration when Pule missed a sitter in the Baroka box.
A long season ahead for the Clever Boys.