New FC Platinum coach Rahman Gumbo has risen to the occasion, posting two consecutive victories to sit on 26 points with defending champions Motor Action on the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League table as the first half of the season draws to an end.
Gumbo, popularly known as Rush, dispatched his former club Highlanders 2-0 at Mandava Stadium in a midweek clash before beating Hwange 1-0 at the Colliery in Week 13 of the league that is suddenly turning into a tight and competitive race.
With the win, Platinum joined leaders Motor Action at the top of the standings both win 26 points, but separated by goal difference.
The defending champions have scored 17 times and conceded five while Platinum have scored 20 and leaked in 11.
Could the championship-winning former Warriors mentor be on a mission to claim the 2011
Premier Soccer League title after spending six years on foreign soil?
And the man who has been responsible for Gumbo’s warm welcome is striker Donald Ngoma, a powerfully built forward who drives the ball with power having made his name in Division One last year-albeit for different reasons.
He was the Central Region’s top marksman before courting controversy after being found in possession of two identity cards. That though does not take away his predatory instincts in front of goal.
Ngoma, who scored against Bosso last Wednesday, struck the winner to thrust the platinum miners neck-on-neck with Motor Action.
However, Rush is on record as saying the calibre of players at the mine are not a championship-winning squad.
Besides Ngoma, FC Platinum boasts of hungry goal getters Benjamin Marere and reigning Footballer of the Year Charles Sibanda.
Sibanda was sent for an early shower for unsporting language in Hwange, an act that does not befit his soccer star accolade and will miss the next two games.
Tension was high as the match drew to a close with Hwange’s Nkosana Siwela being given a yellow card for a reckless tackle, as Marere was shown a yellow card for time wasting in feigning an injury while Sibanda saw red for using vulgar
language in protest at the referee’s decision.
It is surely going to be a tough contest for Gumbo, who has won the championship twice at home with Highlanders, twice in Malawi with MTL Wanderers and once in Botswana with Township Rollers in the 2009/2010 season.
Gumbo ended the Botswana be-Mobile 2010/2011 Premier Soccer League on position two with Mochudi Centre Chiefs.
But the league is still young and Highlanders are also chasing the title after rising from two successive defeats to dispatch neighbours Zimbabwe Saints 3-0 at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday.
The Bulawayo giants are three points behind the Bulls and FC Platinum, but have not been playing their best game of late despite Sunday’s win.
Also on the roll are newcomers Chicken Inn, who are perched on position four, a point behind Bosso.
Chicken Inn held Masvingo United to a goalless draw at Mucheke Stadium after beating Kiglon 3-1 at Luveve Stadium last Wednesday.
Thirteen matches into the first half of the season, Masvingo are yet to lose a match at Mucheke, but were dealt a heavy blow last Wednesday when they lost to 4-1 to Caps United away in Harare.
Shabanie Mine are gradually fleeing the murky waters of relegation in the first half of the season as they beat struggling Shooting Stars 1-0 at Maglas after holding Chikwata to a 0-0 draw at Luveve Stadium on Wednesday.
Harare giants did not have a good weekend with Dynamos losing to new boys Blue Ribbon on Sunday, Caps United sharing the spoils with Monomotapa in a goalless draw and Motor Action drawing 2-2 with Kiglon.