I want to dwell on our last league performance about as much as I want to listen to a Joe Pasquale-voiced audiobook version of a collective autobiography written by all of the dickheads that have ever won Big Brother, so it’s a good job that it’s SA Cup time really, isn’t it.
Jomo Cosmos will be our guests today in the First Round and I expect us to get straight back on track. As the home side and comfortable favourites I’ll be serving Meatloaf for tea (The system, not my hostile feline friend) garnished with a few different faces. This doesn’t sound appetising at all actually, the metaphor stood up better in my head.
Komo starts in net of course with a back 4 of Cele, Havenga, Thoahlane and Jenniker. Gogotya and Norde start in the centre of midfield, with Richards, Sullie and Japhta behind Khat, who’ll get another chance to impress as the lone striker even though he’s almost certainly leaving when his contract expires in the Summer.
The first 20 minutes consist of both sides tentatively trying to work the other out. 22 minutes in however, Shabalala runs forward into our half and draws Thoahlane out of position, before chipping a pass through for Kone, who’s running into the space that our centre back leaves. Kone brings the ball into the box and slams it beyond the flailing hand of Komo and into the far bottom corner of the net.
Kone tries for a second just a couple of minutes later with an ill-advised pot shot from 30 yards, but it flies well wide.
A few more minutes pass and we’re finally on the attack. Sullie receives the ball just outside the Jomo Cosmos box… And loses it promptly. It’s hoofed high into our half and over our defence. Kone has the beating of both Thoahlane and Havenga for pace and he takes the ball down, brings it into our area and places it into the bottom corner for 0-2.
This isn’t the pallet cleanser that I’d hoped for. With under half an hour gone I’m already forced to send us on the attack. The problem is that our defensive line was already high enough for Kone to cause us problems, but I can’t drop the line back without leaving a chasm of space between defence and midfield. We’ll double down, raising the defensive line even more and trying to catch their pacy forward offside.
The half time whistle blows and we trudge back into the changing room, all eyes on the floor. I’m already resigned to losing this game to be honest. I could go on again about the personality of the squad but I’ve played that record so many times that it’s covered in scratches and always skips the bit where I say “determination” 3 times in the same sentence. Junaid Mobara, Joseph Ekwalla and Manqoba Cele replace Thoahlane, Norde and Japhta to give them all an extra bit of game time.
Jomo continue to cause us problems in the second half. Just 5 minutes after the restart, Shabalala skips past Gary Havenga before having a crack at goal from 25 yards, but the ball flies wide.
On the hour mark, Gogotya’s hoofed ball forward is headed at goal by the lesser spotted Khat, but it’s straight at Modiba, who catches the ball easily.
After the hour, Mhlongo chips the ball around Mobara and Kone runs onto it yet again. I might actually have my scouts watch him after the match. He hits it first time with power but Komo tips the ball impressively over the bar with his fingertips.
With 20 minutes to go, Shabalala plays a pass through us once again. Kone gets there ahead of Mobara and shoots, but Komo rushes out to make a good save. He’s helpless to stop Kone from wrapping up the game and his hat trick on the rebound though. We’re out of the cup and have taken a thrashing from a lower league side. It’s not been a good few days.
Our chance of redemption comes against Golden Arrows and I sorely want us to make the most of it. We’re playing at home again so I’m going to see once and for all if this team can play Project: Meatloaf in competitive matches.
Komo plays behind Moe, who’s running out of chances of redemption himself after a half-season where he’s just not been able to get going, Gertse, Havenga and Zulu. Sinbad and Ekwalla make up the central midfield partnership, with Richards, Norde and Japhta in front of them and Lark the lone striker. I’ll be making a couple of changes tactically from the Cup game; we’ll play a much higher line and the offside trap from the start and we’ll make ourselves a bit narrower to stop the onslaught of passes through the central channels.
3 minutes in, Ekwalla’s looking typically busy. He presses a Golden Arrows defender and wins the ball for us in the attacking third. Carl Lark takes over and plays a pass in front of Saileg Richards, who cuts in from the right, runs through on goal and slides the ball into the far bottom corner to score his first professional goal. I look over to Ryan Moon, sat just above the dugout in his suit. “He’s after your place here, Moonie”, I grin. “You’d better get fit again quick!” He smiles and flips me off and I laugh as I turn back to the pitch. An early goal from a homegrown lad never fails to pick spirits up.
After a quarter of an hour, Khanyile plays a long ball over the top for Mothiba to run onto. Havenga can barely keep up with the forward but does manage to force him out wide enough so that his shot flies harmlessly into the stands.
On the half hour, Zungu chips the ball over the top, this time for Nxele on the left. He lets the ball bounce in the area before squaring it for Mothiba, who tucks it into the net. In my day they called that a bullshit FIFA goal, but sadly there’s no law against it here in the analogue world. 1-1.
Fearing a repeat of the Jomo Cosmos game, where they hit the ball over the top of our defence about as many times as I’ve had hot meals, I drop us back to a 4-2-2-1-1. We’ll play more conservatively and play a deeper back line.
Nothing much happens after that, which to an extent is what I wanted. I make some changes in the second half, swapping us to Project: Foxy Mk II, bringing on both Cele’s and Aidie Jenniker, but the match ends 1-1.
I just don’t think that Project: Meatloaf is a viable system at the minute. It’s become my go-to strategy when I’m struggling, but like at Katowice, I just don’t have players technical enough to handle a more dominant, fluid style of play. I’ll have a think on it.
Oh, in other news, Sello Japhta took a knock in the match and will miss 5-8 days, because if there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past couple of months it’s that 3 things in life are certain: Death, Taxes & Santos FC’s attacking players each sustaining more injuries than Homer fucking Simpson.