Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
FED up with first team players’ attitudes when playing lowly sides, Highlanders’ coach Erol Akbay says he will field fringe players for tomorrow’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League encounter against Bantu Rovers.
Bosso put up a lifeless performance in their goalless draw against Harare City on Wednesday and will be away to third from bottom side Rovers at Barbourfields Stadium tomorrow.
Akbay was livid at his charges for underrating their opponents, Chapungu and Harare City, whom they played to identical 0-0 draws within two weeks.
“I’m pissed off with the way first team players apply themselves when we play teams that are at the bottom. They were too confident against Chapungu and Harare City. They thought that those games were a piece of cake, which is wrong. When we play big teams they give their best, fight for every ball, but when it’s small teams, they don’t even run an extra three metres to fight for the ball,” said Akbay.
“I’m going to make wholesome changes and use a different team on Saturday. Maybe the guys that have not been playing can give me the result that I want.
Maybe the first team players are in a comfort zone and have to move away from that and fight for places.”
The Highlanders gaffer said he will carry the cross should the move to leave out regulars backfire.
“This is a risk that I’m willing to take and who knows, sometimes gambling pays,” Akbay said.
The only player almost guaranteed of a starting place is goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda. Forgotten former Caps United, Kiglon and Motor Action winger Yves Ebabali might get his first start alongside his Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) compatriot Tambwe Kalunga.
The midfield trio of King Nadolo, Brian Banda and Tendai Ngulube as well as strikers Nhlanhla Ndlovu and Gabriel Nyoni could also be given rare starts tomorrow.
Highlanders should brace for a tough encounter against a Rovers side that goes into tomorrow’s match bubbling with confidence following a 7-2 thrashing of Yadah FC a fortnight ago. Rovers punished a coach-less Yadah FC, who came to Bulawayo without coach Jairos Tapera and the entire technical team following in-house turmoil.
Maybe Yadah FC thought Rovers would be a walk in the park and they got the shock of their lives and were hammered, with Bukhosi Zakhu Sibanda getting the season’s first hat-trick.
Sibanda, who is also the Rovers’ skipper, said they are ready for Highlanders.
“Highlanders are a big club and we are ready for the encounter. We have prepared well for the game, we’re going to stick to our game plan and try to do what we’ve been practising. Otherwise we’re going out to express ourselves, enjoy the game and hope for a positive result,” Sibanda said.
Players to watch from the youthful Rovers’ side include Sibanda, Obrey Chirinda, holding midfielder Munyaradzi Chitambwe, Lucky Ndlela and Gladman Bharibhari.
Tomorrow: Chapungu v Harare City (Ascot, SuperSport, 1PM), Tsholotsho v Bulawayo City (Beitbridge), Bantu Rovers v Highlanders (Barbourfields), FC Platinum v Yadah FC (Maglas)
Sunday: Ngezi Platinum Stars v ZPC Kariba (Baobab, SuperSport, 1PM), Chicken Inn v Caps United (Luveve), Dynamos v Shabanie Mine (National Sports Stadium), Triangle United v How Mine (Gibbo), Black Rhinos v Hwange (Morris Depot).