BY FORTUNE MBELE/ TERRY MADYAUTA
HIGHLANDERS coach Mandla Mpofu is hoping that Prince Dube can take his form from the international level to club action when Bosso host Chapungu in a Castle Lager Premier Soccer League (PSL) tie at Barbourfields Stadium (BF) this afternoon.
The Bulawayo giants return to action after a two-week sabbatical in the league, having fed four players Dube, goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda, Peter Muduhwa and Nqobizitha Masuku to the national team that participated in the African Nations Championships (Chan) qualifiers.
Dube scored a hat-trick for the Warriors against Mauritius at BF on Sunday and Mpofu is optimistic that the striker, who has only scored a single goal for Highlanders, will come to the party this afternoon.
“I hope the Warriors performance will be his confidence booster. He has been playing very well for our club, but the missing link has been him putting those balls behind the net. I am happy he did that for the Warriors and we hope he translates that to the club when we play on Wednesday. He scored three and created seven scoring opportunities in national colours and we hope that improves his confidence,” Mpofu said.
Highlanders last won in June when they beat Dynamos before coach Madinda Ndlovu quit the club and they went on to play draws against Ngezi Platinum, FC Platinum and Manica Diamonds.
The Bulawayo giants perch on an unfamiliar position 14 on the log table with just 17 points from 15 games.
“We had been gaining momentum of late and obviously the two-week break will lower that drive, but we will always try and encourage the boys to remain focused and keep that mental strength. I am happy four of our regular guys were in action in the last two weeks in the national team. However, the break cannot be an excuse, we should soldier on and move forward,” Mpofu said.
He added: “Preparations have been going well. We continued with our training and I am happy the young (Andrew) Mbeba is back after suspension, so is McClive (Phiri), who is looking good. We might see him in action sooner or later. We might not have Cleopas (Kapupurika) who had a knock on his knee, but it is not too bad. Otherwise everyone else is looking good and I hope those that played for the Warriors are also in good shape.”
While the position on the log worries Mpofu, he reckons they are within reach of the leading pack
“If you look at the log standings, it’s not looking good for us. It is high time I encourage the boys to grind results. At the moment Highlanders need those three points like yesterday and we are not very far from the leading pack. That is not our position, we don’t belong there. I am not putting the boys under pressure, but I am just being realistic,” he said.
Chapungu gaffer Rodwell Dhlakama has warned Highlanders to expect a tough battle when the two sides clash in a rescheduled PSL encounter at BF.
The airmen had a dream start to the season, but have hit a low gear at a crucial stage of their campaign, having gone for nine games without a win, a feat that has seen them drop to 10th position on the league table.
They last tasted victory on week seven when they beat Hwange 2-1 at the Colliery. However, Dhlakama is hopeful his side will bounce back to winning ways today.
On their last meeting, Chapungu thumped Highlanders 4-0 at Ascot and Dhlakama is drawing inspiration from their impressive statistics against the Bulawayo giants.
“Our game against Highlanders is a must-win; we had time to rest and I believe we are ready to battle and walk out of BF with maximum points. It is going to be a tough battle in which I am confident that we are going to give it our best shot,” Dhlakama said.
Meanwhile, Chicken Inn coach Joey Antipas has vowed to inflict more pain on wounded TelOne as his side seek to pile pressure on log leaders FC Platinum.
This will be TelOne’s first match at their preferred home ground Ascot Stadium as they have been using Luveve, while the Gweru facility was under renovations.