I smile as I bite into my toast, skimming the morning headlines on the BBC football website. “Brewers appoint Crouch as interim manager” is the one that catches my eye.
That’s made my week. Bloody Crouchie! Who doesn’t love Peter Crouch? The Burton Albion man just oozes “English”. Not only does he look like a forgotten member of the Royal Family, tower over other players slightly awkwardly in a manner reminiscent of Big Ben and have a good old fashioned dry sense of humour, but he’s then got the brass bollocks to become known for doing the robot and lest we forget, being England’s best goals-per-game striker of all time. I wish him all the best and you can consider me a Burton Albion fan for the foreseeable future.
Back in South Africa, we’re welcoming Cape Town City to the Athlone today. We’ll be serving meatloaf and in fact I’ll be putting out exactly the same lineup that beat Chippa so comfortably in the SA KO Cup, which means Ayanda Nkili, Isaac Sohna, Sello Japhta and Joël Soumahoro are all back in and Tlou Molekwane, Juno, Siyabonga Zulu and Ryan Moon are all back out. Despite our recent collapse against Sundowns, our confidence is high and I expect another win here today.
In the 23rd minute Norde creates our first chance with a clever through ball for Aidir, but the usually prolific striker swings his boot wildly and skews his shot wide. 5 minutes later Masango creates space for himself and cuts in from the left, but shoots straight at Mukuruva in net, who catches comfortably.
Things seem to be going our way until the 37th minute, when Kumalo’s driven cross glances off Sohna’s outstretched foot and rolls into the bottom corner of Komo’s goal. It’s unlucky, but having had our fair share of luck recently we were probably due a goal like that.
After a quick team talk in which I tell the lads they’re unlucky to be behind, we come out for the second half reenergised. 3 minutes after the restart, Sinbad plays a great long ball over the CTC defence for Aidir to chase. The keeper Mukuruva comes rushing out of his box to win the race against our striker though and tries to clear his lines, but smashes the ball against one of his defenders. The loose ball goes spinning away as far as Sony Norde 30 yards out on the right and with the keeper desperately trying to get back in his net, Norde goes for the right footed long range volley – But puts the ball onto the roof of the net.
A couple of minutes later, Japhta swings a corner in for Santos and Kakuba rises well to cushion it down for Aidir, but the Moroccan’s header is tame and straight at Mukuruva, who catches it easily.
With an hour gone, Masango’s replaced by the hopefully more direct Yanga Baliso on the left wing. Quarter of an hour later, this season’s standout duo so far Aidir and Soumahoro, who’ve been disappointing today, are replaced by last year’s heroes Moon and Lark. Norde moves across to the number 10 spot to accommodate Ryan Moon.
With 12 minutes to play, we go on the attack. With 11 minutes to play, Jayiya’s 30 yard free kick is tipped against the bar by Komo’s fingertips and Kumalo runs up to tuck the ball away on the rebound. 0-2.
We keep pushing, but with 3 minutes to go Akosah-Bempah plays in Phungwayo on the left hand side and he slots the ball past Komo to complete in my eyes a ridiculously flattering 0-3 scoreline.
Still, if the team that beat Chippa United’s going to work against anyone, it’s… Well… Chippa United. Our next match is soon upon us and we travel to Chippa’s home of Port Elizabeth eager to shake off that disaster of a match. We’ll line up the same, the only difference being our more standard mentality. I expect a much, much better performance.
Just over 10 minutes in, my team show me a much, much better performance. Masango dribbles into Chippa’s half and passes inside to Joël, who plays it first time through the defence for Aidir, who slots the ball into the bottom corner of the net with his first touch. Much better.
Apart from that it’s a pretty tight and uneventful match. With 20 minutes to go I bring on Moon and Zulu for Masango and Norde, with Japhta pushing forwards as a winger while Zulu drops back, and we go on the defensive.
5 minutes from time, Sello Japhta releases Aidir with a good searching ball down the left wing. Aidir keeps it in at the byline, cuts inside and lays the ball back for Ryan Moon, who smashes it into the bottom corner. I punch the air with delight. Ryan Moon recapturing his 2019/20 season form would be fantastic news for this Santos team and I celebrate his goal as deliriously as I have any goal this year.
2 minutes later, Japhta gets a cross in himself from the left wing and Aidir latches onto it. He shoots first time but it’s blocked by a defender and the loose ball bounces over to Ryan Moon, who hits it – Against the post. Just the 1 goal for Moonie today, but I’ll take it.
Santos still strike me as a team with so much potential but there’s still something not quite right. We can pick up wins this season and that doesn’t seem to be a problem, but an off day for our striker shouldn’t result in a 0-3 defeat like it did against Cape Town City. With the winter break fast approaching it’s something that we’ll have plenty of time to figure out, but before that we’ve got a Cup Final to keep half an eye on and I’d rather we work out our issues sooner rather than later.