Southern Region losing relegation battle

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ZPC Kariba's Talent Chawapihwa (left) blocks a shot by Bulawayo City's Brian Chikwenya during a soccer league match played at Barbourfields stadium yesterday....Pic By Dennis Mudzamiri...

THE battle to beat the drop in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League is as fascinating as the contest at the top for the ultimate prize.

by KEVIN MAPASURE

At the bottom, it is a battle that the Southern Region is seemingly losing with three teams well embedded in the relegation zone.
The Southern Region, which has got seven teams in the topflight at the moment with six of them based in Bulawayo, could be left with four next season.

It will take a miracle for Tsholotsho to survive relegation this time, and for Bantu, that they are going down is no longer up for debate.

Bantu have collected just 13 points from 27 matches, with seven still to be played they are 18 points from safety.

Their form does not suggest they are a team that could win all their remaining seven matches, while Tsholotsho have raised a bit of hope, after picking up eight points in their last five matches a return only matched by Shabanie Mine among the teams that occupy the four relations spots.

The third Southern Region team in the relegation zone, Hwange, have been huffing and puffing, but the fixture schedule has not been too kind to them at such a crucial time.

They have managed two important wins against Harare City and the hapless Bantu Rovers in the last five matches, but still sit five points away from safety.

If there is a team among the four in the drop zone that looks like mounting a successful bid to stay afloat, it is Shabanie Mine who, having picked up eight points from their last five matches, are just one point away from Harare City, who occupy the last safe spot.

The log doesn’t look too good for the Southern Region, who could lose three representatives in the top-flight and with Bulawayo City also not yet out of danger, as they sit just two points better than Shabanie.

It’s possible that the Southern Region alone can claim all four relegation slots, a development which would spell chaos for the Division One, which sees off one team and will receive three more.

A cusory look at the final seven matches for each of the teams that are in danger of relegation, spells danger for teams like Tsholotsho.

Tsholotsho still have the championship-chasing trio of Dynamos, Chicken Inn, both away, as well as FC Platinum, who they will play at home.

In the other four matches, they face Chapungu, Triangle, Black Rhinos and Bantu Rovers.

Hwange’s toughest fixtures are likely to be against Yadah also battling to beat relegation, champions Caps United, whom they play away from home, Shabanie also away and their home tie against Harare City.

The fixtures do not make for an encouraging reading for Hwange, as they also have to play Kelvin Kaindu’s How Mine away from home in their next match.

Shabanie Mine have been making good use of their home advantage and they still have four more home matches where they will host Chicken Inn, Triangle, Hwange and Yadah.

Their away fixures are against FC Platinum, Black Rhinos and How Mine. If they can continue picking up points at home, they stand a good chance of sealing a place in the topflight again for next season.

Yadah have shown in recent matches that they are a side with the quality to pick up enough points to avoid relegation.

They suffered one defeat in their last five matches where they picked up eight points. Their last three matches are probably their toughest, where they have to play against Caps United, whom their beat in the first half of the season, Highlanders and Shabanie Mine at Maglas Stadium on the last day.

With the bottom three facing an uphill struggle to survive, only three points separate Shabanie Mine on position 15 in the 18-team table and 11th-placed Chapungu.

It should be an enthrallingly entertaining battle at the bottom as much as it is at the top but the Southern Region could be the hardest hit.
Final seven fixtures for bottom six:

Yadah: Black Rhinos (H), Hwange (A), How Mine (H), Bulawayo City (H), Caps United (A), Highlanders (H), Shabanie (A).

Harare City: Bantu Rovers (H), Chicken Inn (A), FC Platinum (H), Triangle (A), Black Rhinos (H), Hwange (A), How Mine (H).

Shabanie: Chicken Inn (H), FC Platinum (A), Triangle (H), Black Rhinos (A), Hwange, How Mine (A), Yadah (H).

Hwange: How Mine (A), Yadah (h), Caps United (A), Highlanders (H), Shabanie Mine (A), Harare City (H), ZPC Kariba (A).

Tsholotsho: Chapungu (H), Dynamos (A), Bantu Rovers (H), Chicken inn (A), FC Platinum (H), Triangle (A), Black Rhinos (H).

Bantu Rovers: Harare City (A), ZPC Kariba (H), Tsholotsho (A), Ngezi Platinum Stars (H), Chapungu (A), Dynamos (H), Bulawayo City (A).

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