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Highlanders FC in spectacular freefall

by Staff reporter
10 Oct 2023 at 05:56hrs | Views
Highlanders FC's dramatic decline in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League has been remarkable. While some non-playing stakeholders still hold onto hope, it appears they are gradually losing faith in the title race, which now appears to be a battle between Ngezi Platinum and defending champions FC Platinum.

On Saturday, Highlanders experienced a devastating 0-3 loss to Premier League newcomers, Simba Bhora, at Baobab Stadium. This defeat marked their heaviest loss of the season.

Initially, Highlanders were unbeaten and held a five-point lead over second-placed Ngezi Platinum after 19 games. However, within seven games, Ngezi Platinum has surged ahead, now enjoying a six-point lead over Highlanders – an 11-point swing in less than two months.

Highlanders have managed just one victory in their last six matches since their defeat at Mandava Stadium, a 2-0 win over Yadah on September 17. With eight more rounds of matches to play and 24 points at stake for each team, Highlanders' collapse serves as a reminder that anything can happen until the final whistle.

In mid-August, Highlanders were not only considered title contenders but were also challenged to finish the season unbeaten after going 19 games without a loss and conceding just four goals.

However, two significant events unfolded during that period. Firstly, coach Brito Baltemar revealed his application for the Warriors job, causing concerns among some Highlanders supporters who felt this could be a distraction during a successful season. Secondly, Highlanders faced defending champions FC Platinum for their 20th match of the season, resulting in a 2-0 victory for FC Platinum, breaking their six-game winless streak.

FC Platinum's resurgence has established them as the biggest threat to Ngezi Platinum's title hopes. Highlanders' defensive solidity also crumbled, as they conceded two goals in a single match for the first time that season during the FC Platinum clash.

In the following week, Highlanders conceded another two goals against city rivals Chicken Inn, leading to back-to-back matches where they conceded the same number of goals as they did in their previous 19 matches spanning five months.

Their match against Dynamos was abandoned after 38 minutes due to crowd trouble, awaiting a ruling from the Premier Soccer League Disciplinary Committee.

In the six completed matches since their defeat at Zvishavane, Highlanders have performed the worst in the league, sitting at the bottom with just four points. During this period, they scored only three goals and conceded nine, reflecting a sharp decline in their form.

As things stand, only Bulawayo Chiefs and ZPC Kariba have conceded more goals (10) than Highlanders in the seven matches between Week 20 and Week 26.

Despite this disappointing run, there is still belief among some supporters that the situation can be salvaged in the remaining eight matches. The Harare Chapter of the club's supporters issued a solidarity message, emphasizing that the title race is still within reach and encouraging the team to keep fighting.

Highlanders chairman Johnfat Sibanda also called for calm and urged fans to rally behind the team, believing that there are still opportunities to achieve respectable results in the remaining games.

In conclusion, while Highlanders' recent performance has been disappointing, there remains hope and determination among some stakeholders that they can turn the season around and compete for the title.

Saturday: Black Rhinos v Greenfuel (Bata), Bulawayo Chiefs v Simba Bhora (Luveve), Herentals v Yadah (NSS), Manica Diamonds v Dynamos (Gibbo), Ngezi Platinum v Chicken Inn (Baobab), ZPC Kariba v FC Platinum (Nyamhunga)
Sunday: CAPS United v Sheasham (NSS), Highlanders v Cranborne Bullets (Barbourfields), Triangle v Hwange (Gibbo)

Source - The Chronicle