So what did we learn from our match against Highland Park? We have to figure it out quickly as the Boffins at the SAFA have scheduled us 2 matches in 3 days after our 15 day break.
I think the most obvious thing to take from the match is that it’s time to bring in Project: Foxy. We used it for about 25 minutes and scored twice just before the end, and that was with a controlling variant of the system, which I’ll try again today seeing as we’re at home. I’m going to keep using Project: CO in training though. Maybe when Khat becomes more familiar as a Libero we’ll have better success with it.
Today we take on Golden Arrows at their place and I’m anxious to see what kind of performance I’ll get using Project: Foxy. I’m dropping Moe because he’s been pretty underwhelming so far at right back while our captain Philani Cele has been on the bench, so he comes in. I also drop Khat even though he’s comfortable playing behind the striker and bring in Sullie to be our number 10, as he’s more natural there and I want to give him a chance. Otherwise we remain unchanged.
With less than 2 minutes on the clock, Emil Sambou slips Ryan Moon through and the winger strokes the ball under the outrushing keeper, moving us up to 1st place in the PSL!
I think it’s fair to say that we’ll be seeing Project: Foxy quite a bit. The players look absolutely inspired. Only 2 minutes after the goal, Sullie launches the ball forward, Sambou latches onto it and shrugs off the centre backs before running through on goal, but he shoots just wide. What a start though.
After 20 minutes things just keep getting better when Nonyane goes through the back of Moon and earns himself a straight red card.
We react with a sublime passing move, at the end of which Sambou slips Moon through on goal again, but his near post shot is held onto by the keeper.
We don’t let up either. Golden Arrows are having a nightmare start and when Komo launches a goal kick deep into their half, the defenders panic and don’t deal with it properly. The ball’s headed meekly back as far as Moon and he sprints down the line and shoots from a tight angle, but can’t keep it down and the ball flies into the stands.
And then, after half an hour, Shozi passes to Mothiba just inside our box, and with thudding inevitability he loops it over Komo, perfectly into the far top corner of the net.
Changes are made instantly. Golden Arrows are currently persevering with their 4-4-1-1 without their sent off left winger, so Cele pushes up as more of an attacking wing back on the right and we focus all of our play down that side. I also tell Diale to man mark Shozi, who had far too much time to set that goal up; and to stay tight to him.
At half time, Golden Arrows do change formation, making me rethink again. They opt for an asymmetrical 3-2-2-1-1 system. A classic, I think we can all agree. Seeing this, I change us to a 2-3-1-2-2 formation, leaving just the 2 centre backs at home with Diale marking their number 10, and allowing both wing backs to push up to help the the wingers feed our striking partnership of Sambou and Khat, who replaces the largely ineffective Sullie.
10 minutes into the half, Khat sweeps the ball beautifully over to the right for the overlapping Cele, who lays it inside. The enthusiastic… Maybe overly so at this point… Ryan Moon aims for the far top corner, but a fingertip save by Mabokgwane denies him.
In the next 15 minutes Golden Arrows start to dominate. They take advantage of our single file 2 man midfield and pass it through us at will, forcing a couple of good saves from Komo.
I replace Sambou with Gogotya, who drops back alongside Sinbad to form a midfield triangle. The attacks stop coming, but apart from Moe replacing the knackered Diale and Cele moving to the holding man spot, nothing else happens. It’s 2 points dropped in my eyes.
We look to move on swiftly with Supersport United at home. Dino Visser, although he could have been risked in the last match, is now fit again, although I don’t think Komo deserves to lose his place just yet. He’s been undone twice, but only when our opponents have placed the ball perfectly into the corners, giving him practically no chance. He’ll stay in the team for now.
Under the previous regimes, Santos have lost their last 5 matches against Supersport. For this reason, we’re heavy favourites to lose today, which is probably fair enough. We’re currently 4th in the league on 7 points and Supersport are 6th on 6, so they’ll overtake us if they do get the win.
We line up with the true Project: Foxy for the first time today. We’ll sit back, soak up the pressure and smash them on the break. As I’ve already said, Komo keeps his place, as does Cele at right back, and I’ll have Diale man marking Lakay, Supersport’s attacking midfielder from the start. Come on boys.
The first 20 minutes are reminiscent of the 55th-70th minute period against Golden Arrows. We are absolutely dominated and as far as I can tell, the reason is the same. They have a midfield triangle and we don’t, so their spare man in the centre is able to link up play and bring Diale and Sinbad out of position. If only we had Ngolo Kante, he made this system look so easy.
I make a tactical change at the 20 minute mark and Khat doesn’t seem to like it. I replace him with Gogotya, who drops into the middle of an orthodox 4-1-2-3 formation with Sinbad. It’s not ideal, but Khat’ll just have to get over it.
Minutes later, Supersport respond by creating a chance down the left wing. Twala robs the ball from Cele and sprints down the wing, chipping it inside for Mthembu, but his low shot is saved by Komo.
10 minutes later, Gogotya works himself some space 25 yards from goal and plays in Ryan Moon, but his shot goes just wide of the far post.
And then a few minutes later, Lakay plays Moloi through, who’s questionably positioned in the box. “OFFSIDE!” I bellow, looking at the linesman, and then the referee. But the flag stays down, the whistle doesn’t blow, and when I look back, Moloi’s wheeling away towards the touchline and the ball’s nestled in the back of our net. To be fair, it was extremely tight and I can’t blame the officials for getting it wrong. But they did. They did get it wrong.
At half time, I tell the lads that they’re unlucky to be trailing. Sambou instantly switches off so I tell him to go and get changed. Carl Lark comes on in his place. I also put an emphasis on retaining possession in the second half to see if we can string some passes together.
With nearly an hour gone it’s still Supersport that are looking the more dangerous of the sides though. Morton’s shot from the edge of the area forces a good save from Komo, who gets down well to his left to tip the ball behind for a corner.
We try to control, we then try to attack, we then go to a balls-out 4-2-4 with Saileg Richards replacing Diale, but the match ends 1-0.
Of course I resent coming away empty handed from a big team that we’ve now lost to 6 times in a row, thanks to an offside goal. Of course I do. But sometimes Lady Luck smiles on you, and sometimes she kicks down the door to your house, barges into your living room and takes a shit on the rug. Hopefully at some point this season we’ll ride our luck. We’ll get a scrappy goal deep into injury time and I’ll put it down to my mastery of the tactics white board, or a brilliant never-say-die attitude by the goal scorer. But really it’ll be her. It’ll be her, flashing those pearly whites, saying “Sorry about the Supersport match” and making amends. Tonight though, I need to buy some Febreze on my way home.