Linare, who have had a painful drought of more than three decades without a major trophy, are having an incredible run in the second round of the season, and now occupy second position on the 14-team Premier League log behind Bantu.
The Hlotse-based side were losing finalists in the LNIG Top8 early this year, and also won pre-season tournaments such as the King’s Charity Cup, but for such a big team, these “achievements” are never enough.
No one had taken them seriously as league title-challengers, but Sunday’s 1-0 win over defending champions Lioli have proved Ntene’s side has the ability to wrestle the championship away from leaders Bantu, just like their coach said.
Of-course, Linare have come close in previous seasons only to choke when it matters most, but this time around, they mean business and look a threat to Bantu who are desperate to win the league themselves.
Bantu have enjoyed Cup success over the years, but the league title is the one trophy that has continued to elude them.
Linare, on the other hand, have had a remarkable run in the second round and are yet to lose a match in eight starts, while a win in their upcoming encounter against Bantu will be very crucial in their quest to end the long drought.
League leaders Bantu have also not lost any game since the start of the season and it will be interesting to see if they can maintain the standards and go all the way and win the league title.
These should be really tough times for the Mafeteng-based side as they lost the title to Lioli last year, just about this time of the season.
Bantu were held to a goalless draw by Mpatlalatsane last weekend, and have tough fixtures coming up against in-form sides, Linare and Likhopo.
Defending league champions Lioli are also still in the race although I must say they have not been convincing for a team of their quality.
For me, they are strong in all departments as compared to their title-rivals.
However, Bantu have been the strongest of all the title-contenders as they are yet to lose a league match all year.
Linare coach Freese Ntene has said his team’s chances of winning the league depends on them beating their two rivals, Bantu and Lioli.
They have already beaten Lioli to overtake them into second position and can move closer to the league leaders if they also win their encounter against the Motlatsi Shale-coached side at the top of the table.
A lot of people questioned the Linare management when they sacked club legend, Thulo Leboela, and appointed Ntene as the new coach in January, but I must say, so far so good — the move is looking fruitful.
Everything seems to be working well for him at this stage as his team continues to grind results to keep the team’s hopes of ending their barren spell, alive.
Tse Tala, as Linare are affectionately known, will be motivated by the fact that they are the only side to have won against Bantu in the 2013/14 season, having beaten them in the quarterfinals of the LNIG Top8 earlier this year.