Relegation dogfight rages on



Mikia Kalati

The battle to remain in topflight football continues with Likila United, Rovers, LMPS, Linare and Liphakoe all desperate not to drop any more points in their remaining matches.

The bottom two sides on the 14-team Vodacom Premier League table will be automatically relegated come end of the season and any of the above-mentioned sides could find themselves going down to the A Division.

Mphatlalatsane anchor the standings and look destined for the chop after accumulating a mere 12 points from 20 matches and are now left with six games before their league programme comes to a close.

Mphatlalatsane lost 6-1 to Lioli a fortnight ago and 2-0 against LCS at the weekend, sounding the death knell for the St Monica’s-based outfit.

But club spokesperson, Thabiso Jomane, believes it is premature to write off Mphatlalatsane.

“If you look at the way we played against LCS at the weekend, you will realise there has been a big improvement in our game,” Jomane said.

“I think the coach has now come-up with a plan that will help us fight for our lives in the remaining matches.

“Another positive thing is we will be facing teams which are also playing for survival and it is better than playing teams in the top half of the table as was the case in our last two matches.”

Another team in a quandary is Likila United, who are second from bottom on the premiership table, with seven matches still to play.

Likila are level on 17 points with two teams above them, Rovers and Linare, which means they still have a chance to beat the drop if they start collecting maximum points.

As for Linare who have also played 19 matches and just like Likila remain with seven games to save their premiership status, the team remains winless since the second round of the season got underway in January.

But according to coach Motlatsi Shale, the team’s problems are mostly to do with management.

“I can tell you that the attitude is not right among the players and from what I have seen since I joined the team (last month), they are behaving this way because things are not right at the top; at management level,” Shale said.

“Some of the players have stopped coming to matches because management has failed to buy them soccer boots.

“Among these players I’m talking about are those signed in the January transfer window to help the team survive relegation. The situation has become so bad there are times we have only had two substitutes for some games.

“What is happening here is very worrying because as much as we want to fight, it is very difficult to do so without resources, commitment from players and management. But again because of what is happening, you really cannot blame these players.”

Shale made a plea to the Hlotse community to come together and help Linare avoid relegation.

“It will be a very sad day if this team was to be relegated, which is why I am appealing to the community here to support us,” he said.

On the other hand, Rovers’ impressive start to life in topflight football could count for nothing if they fail to maintain their premiership status come end of the season.

But coach Pule Khojane is not throwing in the towel and has vowed to fight for victory in the team’s remaining six matches of the season.

Khojane has also dismissed rumours doing the rounds that he resigned at halftime during the team’s 2-1 loss to Sundawana last Friday, insisting he only left early to attend to some personal issues.

“It is true that I left at halftime during the match against Sundawana, but that was because I had to attend to other commitments. I have not left the club; I am still here and committed to the cause of saving this team because as far as I’m concerned, survival is still possible.

“I admit it is going to be tough, but I think we can overcome that challenge if we put more effort into it. The good thing is we are going to face teams which are also in the same relegation predicament as us,” he said.

Police side LMPS are also battling for their lives and occupy 10th position on the table. The recent signing of talented defender Nkau Lerotholi from Matlama has improved the team’s fortunes but they still face the danger of going down to the A Division.

The police side have 18 points from 20 matches and with six matches to play before their league campaign comes to a close, LMPS cannot afford to lose any game going forward. Ninth-placed Liphakoe, on 21 points from 20 matches are also not safe from relegations.

But LMPS FC public relations officer Kotsoana Ramakau, believes the team has a fighting chance of remaining afloat.

“There has been a huge improvement as we started the second round bottom of the table but we have managed to move up to 10th although we are not yet safe from relegation,” Ramakau said.

“There is no doubt that the arrival of Lerotholi has been massive for our team as we no longer concede goals like we used to do and he leads by example because of his experience.

“So the target now is to get as far away from the relegation zone as possible and hopefully, end the season in the top eight.”

Mphatlalatsane’s remaining matches: Matlama, Rovers, LMPS, Sundawana, Linare and Likila United.

Linare’s last  games: Liphakoe, LMPS, Bantu, Likila United, Mphatlalatsane, Lioli

Likila’s outstanding fixtures: Rovers, Kick4Life, LDF, Linare, LMPS, Mphatlalatsane

Rovers’ remaining matches: Likila United, Mphatlalatsane, LCS, Likhopo, Lioli, Liphakoe.

LMPS’ last fixtures of the season: Sundawana, Linare, Mphatlalatsane, LDF, Likila, Likhopo.

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