THE clock is slowly ticking towards the end of the 2018/19 season and the race for the Econet Premier League title is set to go to the wire in the remaining five games.
Matlama are at the summit of the table and have five points lead ahead of second placed LCS while Bantu are eight points adrift despite having a game in hand.
All the three clubs can still win the league but all that depends on the results of the remaining games.
However, there is no doubt that Matlama are the favourites based on their consistency throughout the second round. This is also aided by their remaining fixtures, which are mostly against teams that have been struggling in the log.
Their only test will surely be the match against Bantu, which is likely to be the title decider.
A debate is raging as to which players should be candidates for the big awards at the end of the campaign.
For the coach of the season, I think the destination of the league trophy will have a lot of say as to which coach will be honoured between Matlama’s Thabile Secker, Mpitsa Marai of LCS and James Madidilane of Bantu.
Secker has done very well in his first season in charge of Tse Putsoa and guiding the team to the league title after so many years will surely make him a favourite for the accolade.
Tse Putsoa last won the league title in 2009.
LCS have also continued to improve under Marai though he has been struggling over the years making it to different cup finals but winning none.
Marai has also revived the careers of a lot of players who had already been written-off at other clubs. He has also brought in several youngsters to the LCS side that has over the years relied on seasoned campaigners who were in the twilight of their careers.
The other coach in the race for the championship is Bantu’s Madidilane, whose side made history to become the first local team to make it past the preliminary round of the CAF Champion League football in almost two decades.
A Matšo Matebele however, struggled to get their groove back in the league compared to the last two seasons where they won back-to-back titles.
This could be due to some changes that the club had to go through this campaign and the fact that some of their key players are also aging.
Despite all that, they have remained in the race and still have a good chance of making it a historic three titles in a row and this proves the credentials of Madidilane as a coach.
The former Bloemfontein Celtic defender has proved to be a coach who is not afraid to make big changes and is very good at managing his dressing room.
One cannot also turn a blind eye to the work done by Thabo Tsutsulupa in his first-year coaching at Liphakoe as well as Halemakale Mahlaha with a youthful Likhopo side.
Unfortunately, the two teams do not have abundant resources like the bigger clubs like such as Bantu and Matlama, who are able to sign any player they want.
Coming to the players on the field of play, Matlama’s Motebang Sera has been exceptional and it is not a surprise that he is leading the goal scoring charts with 13 goals. Sera always rises to the occasion and should be a contender for the Player of the Season Award.
Young Rethabile Mokokoane has also impressed playing in the heart of Tse Putsoa’s defence with Lisema Lebokollane, who has also had a decent campaign.
Both deserve to be among the contenders for the top awards while Mokokoana will also be considered for the Young Player of the Season.
Veteran midfielder Bushy Moletsane brought stability and leadership into the Matlama side and it’s no wonder his side is this close to the title for the first time in over a decade. It has so much to do with Moletsane’s experience. After all, he has already won the Premier League four times before. He first won it with the same club in 2003 and went on to win it with Lioli in 2009, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Sepiriti Malefane has had yet another splendid campaign for LCS and also forced his way back into the national set-up because of the good form he has displayed throughout the season.
Goalkeeper Sam Ketsekile has also had a solid season in goals for LCS, which also helped him overtake the other goalkeepers in the Likuena fold.
Makara Ntaitsane also had a decent season for LCS scoring important goals for Masheshena to remain in the race for the title at this stage of the season.
The Likhopo trio of Morena Mohlominyane (seven goals in his first season), Tšepang Sefali and Santi Ntšohi were also marvelous to watch in the heart of the midfield and should be in contention for the Young Player of the Season.
Neo Mokhachane of Bantu was also a marvel to watch in his first season of top flight football after joining from second tier side Ace Maseru.
This is will also go down as one of the seasons when Mkhwanazi Mkhwanazi established himself as one of the best defenders in the country. He has previously struggled to make a name for himself at Lioli but has had a brilliant season partnering Tsietsi Khooa in most of Bantu’s matches.
Thabiso Lichaba, who came in as a third-choice goalkeeper at Bantu after a difficult spell at Matlama has also risen to the occasion after he was given a lifeline at the Mafeteng side. Lichaba has been impressive throughout the campaign and has also proven to be a penalty specialist in both league and cup matches.
It’s not a surprise that he has been selected as one of the four goalkeepers for the Likuena squad that recently started their preparations for the upcoming African Nations Championship (CHAN).
Despite having a disappointing season, Lioli still had a marvel in Jessy Matsie who should be a contender for the Goalkeeper of the Season alongside Liphakoe’s Tankiso Chaba.
Tšepo Toloane also had an impressive season for LDF and was instrumental throughout the campaign. He played a key role in the revival of LDF, who at one stage looked to be contenders for the title.
The army side end its long trophy drought recently winning the LNIG Top8 and it’s thanks to the talent of Toloane, who also contributed a lot of goals in their campaign.
He will surely also be in the run for the Player of the Season accolade.
Tšeole Ranthimo and Thabo Matšoele were also consistent for the Liphakoe side that also had a very good start to the 2018/19 season but could not maintain the standards in the second round.
Despite blowing hot and cold, the Quthing side proved tough to beat and will surely comeback stronger next season provided they are able to keep the services of Tsutsulupa as their coach.