I’ve prepared a horribly challenging general knowledge quiz for you today, so let’s get straight into it:
Q: The dog says…?
A: “Woof!” Good start!
Q: The mouse says…?
A: “Squeak!” Indeed it does, doing well so far!
Q: The Khat says…?
A: “I’ve gashed my leg and joined the ever-growing queue of Santos FC attackers sidelined for the upcoming home clash against Kaizer Chiefs”. And thus concludes the quiz.
Let’s be fair, Khat’s gashed leg doesn’t exactly lose me any sleep the night before the match like Japhta, Moon and Sambou’s respective injuries did. Yes, I’ve only used him a couple of times and yes, mainly as a Libero or an attacking midfielder, but in truth Khat could’ve come close to breaking a world high jump record this year as he’s flopped almost as spectacularly as Dick Fosbury. It does however mean that we have absolutely no depth at the top end of the pitch other than the untried youth players, and to be fair a recovered but still incredibly unfit Sello Japhta.
Dino Visser’s back after his injury, which although not the most exciting news in the world does mean that we’re back to having more than 1 goalkeeper in the squad, which has to be a good thing.
As I mentioned, today is the day we welcome Razorlight to the Athlone Stadium, which after giving it some thought isn’t the worst time to have an offensive crisis. Famous American Airport John F Kennedy once said that “In the Chinese language, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity.” As satisfying and comforting a thought as this is, it’s not strictly true. The second character roughly means “A point where things happen or change”, which could be interpreted as “Opportunity” but could also be interpreted as “So much shit hitting the fan that the fan explodes and every man, woman and child in the vicinity is covered in a blanket of flaming wreckage. And shit.”
Nevertheless, today I choose to agree with Mr Kennedy, so let’s think about how this crisi-tunity could work in our favour. Firstly against a comfortably better side I’m inclined to play more defensively anyway, decreasing the number of offensive roles in the side. And then taking that a step further, we have defensively minded players who can play the sort of attacking roles like on the wings, so why not chuck them in too? We’ll play a more solid 4-1-4-1 variant of Project: Foxy Mk II with orthodox full backs Aidie Jenniker and Phil Cele coming in on the wings. Thoahlane also comes in for Havenga at the back.
3 minutes into the match, Franz Ferdinand win themselves a corner, but the ball’s cleared and we counter attack. Sinbad passes to Carl Lark on the edge of the area, who turns his marker, shoots for the bottom corner, and squeezes the ball past Khune and into the net. Santos FC 1, Hard Fi 0.
By the 10 minute mark the Pigeon Detectives restore the natural order through Morris, who slides the ball under Komo after an impressive dribble and cross from Harrison set him up.
Straight from kick off we attack. Ekwalla passes to Sinbad, who runs into space in the centre. He takes the ball forwards and shoots from 20 yards, but it flies high and wide of goal.
A few minutes later, Morena floats in a cross from a deep free kick on the left wing. Thoahlane attempts to head it clear but he only succeeds in nodding it on to the far post, where Harrison arrives to head the ball over Komo and in, giving We Are Scientists the lead and completing their 12 minute turnaround. Why can’t we do that?
After half an hour, Mphahlele receives the ball on the right wing and crosses it low into our box. Harrison gets there and hits the near post, and when he tries to put the rebound away Komo rushes in to block it. It could’ve easily been 1-3.
It takes another 10 minutes to become 1-3 actually. On the stroke of half time, Ntshangase finds Morris on the edge of the box, who hits a shot on the turn and fires the ball straight into the bottom corner.
At half time I don’t have much to say. In fairness, it’s been a very even match so far, with the only real difference being that Maximo Park have found the back of the net twice more than we have. I tell the boys to keep going and send them back out.
Just over 10 minutes after the restart, Baloyi underhits a backpass to Khune and Carl Lark steals in to tap the ball into the net. I punch the air with delight. That’s exactly what we’ve needed; a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe it’ll be enough to inspire the lads into bagging an equaliser.
Under 2 minutes later, Mphahlele swings a cross in from a Kasabian corner and Moseamedi rises above Gertse to head the ball against the post, against Komo and in. Well, bollocks.
With 20 minutes to go, I bring on Saileg Richards, Sullie and Sony Norde in place of Philani Cele, Marothi Diale and Siyabonga Zulu and we go on the attack. It works to an extent, as Jenniker’s cross from the edge of the area finds Sullie, who directs the ball into the bottom corner on the volley and after 8 months actually makes a contribution to the team. It isn’t enough, but to be honest I’ll take a hard fought 3-4 loss against The Fratellis. The Fratellis are an extremely good team after all.
After Carl Lark’s man of the match performance, he’s on 5 for the season. He’ll actually break a Santos FC record if he gets the award one more time, which really goes to show how well he’s done for someone who wasn’t even in my first team at the start of the season.
Can you take confidence from a loss? I feel like we can. We were good against Babyshambles and if we can play like that against a team that are incapable of scoring 4 goals, we’ll get a result, right? I think it makes sense, but it’s time to test my theory against Mthatha Bucks.
As we’re the home side I’m giving Project: Meatloaf one more try. Out come Moe, possibly for the last time, Diale and Zulu and in come Richards, Norde and the fit again Japhta. Jenniker and Cele, who did their jobs pretty well against the league leaders The Courteeners, both drop back to full back to facilitate Richards, Norde and Japhta moving up behind Carl Lark.
After nearly 20 minutes and a good period of Santos FC possession, Thoahlane hits the ball long to the edge of the Mthatha Bucks box. Norde takes it down expertly and runs through on goal, but his shot is disappointing and goes straight into Hoffman’s arms.
5 minutes later, Ekwalla finds himself in plenty of space 30 yards out. He chips the ball down the left wing for Japhta, who cuts it across first time for Lark, who buries it with his first touch. Meatloaf in action.
With the exception of me shutting up shop with Marothi Diale coming in as a holding man 20 minutes from time, that’s all she wrote. It’s a deserved 3 points and a promising display to boot.
With 10 games to go, we’re 10 points clear of the relegation zone with a game in hand. If you rewind a year it’s clear that sometimes that gap closes on you fast, but I feel comfortable enough. Goolam Allie instructed me to avoid a relegation fight with Santos and I think we’ll do that. I just want to take my 11th/12th/13th placed finish and get to the Summer, because despite the promising signs and the green shoots that pop up every once in a while, a part of me can’t wait to rip this squad apart and bring in some new faces.