Premiership returnees Zimbabwe Saints are in trouble as they face relegation, after just one season in the top-flight football league following their 2-1 loss to Gunners in Harare on Saturday.
Chauya Chikwata fell to the Moses Chunga-coached Gunners’ arsenal with nine games remaining in the league after a formidable showing when they held FC Platinum to a goalless draw the previous Sunday.
Four teams will be relegated this season to make way for four others that will be promoted from the four respective Division One leagues and Zimbabwe Saints are mired in the relegation zone on position three from the bottom on the log-standings.
After a good start to the year, Chikwata had a tumultuous end to the first half of the season, which saw them part ways with assistant coach Agent Sawu and the unceremonious exit of head coach Willard “Mashinkila” Khumalo.
They have since engaged another Saints son, heralded former defence pillar Ephraim Chawanda, who lost 2-0 to Shabanie Mine on his first assignment at Maglas Stadium in Zvishavane before holding the platinum miners at White City Stadium.
When he drew with the moneybags, Chawanda said it was the beginning of the trip to relegation survival and after losing to Gunners on Saturday, he was still adamant he commands a ship that would survive the chop.
Chikwata’s mid-year PSL window period was characterised by the flight of most of their senior players that included Leo Kurauzvione, Philip Sithole, Tafadzwa Maingire, Beaven Chikaka, Ntokozo Tshuma, Simbarashe Gate and Danisa Phiri, among others, amid remuneration disputes.
They have, however, assembled a strong squad that includes retained captain Nkosilathi Dube, Chipo Tsodzo, Abraham Mbaiwa, Castro Ndebele, Gift Phiri, Sydney Linyama, Fortune Nyambosi, goalkeeper Munyaradzi Diya and acquired Dumisani Ndlovu, John Kapenya and Evans Rusike.
After the fall to Gunners, the tough hurdle for Chikwata are the next assignments that are lined up for them as they seek to steer away from the murky waters of relegation.
Saints face reigning champions Motor Action at home in their next assignment before travelling to Harare for a date with Dynamos, who have since found a new rich vein of form which has seen them spring to position three on the log-table with new coach Callisto Pasuwa.
After Dynamos, Chawanda and his troops are home to neighbours Chicken Inn.
It’s also not good news for Shabanie Mine, who are just a rung above Zimbabwe Saints on the Premiership ladder, after they fell to Dynamos 2-0 at Rufaro Stadium on Sunday.
Inconsistent Hwange collected maximum points at the Colliery after beating Caps United with the Green Machine’s new coach Lloyd Chitembwe losing his first game on his second assignment after beating log anchors Kiglon 2-0 last week in Harare.
Chipangano are perched on a comfortable sixth position on the log table while Makepekepe are on a disappointing 11th, an unexpected placing for one of the country’s biggest clubs.
Highlanders and Chicken drew 1-1 in one of the dullest matches of the season at Barbourfields Stadium, with the Bulawayo giants scoring first from a disputable 53rd minute penalty.