Ricky Zililo in Ndola, Zambia
CHICKEN Inn coach Joey Antipas has challenged his players to work on their mental strength to improve their concentration levels and avoid conceding goals. The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions have so far conceded five goals in the two friendly matches they have played here; two in their 2-2 draw with Zambian side Zanaco and the rest in their loss to Tanzanian side Azam.
“If you look at the goals we’ve been conceding, they’ve been soft and it all boils down to concentration levels. The guys need to work on their mental strength and concentrate throughout the game,” said Antipas.
“Towards the end of last season, we were conceding too many goals and we’ve to find a solution before the Mamelodi Sundowns game. I’ll be happy if we keep a clean sheet in our last match against Zesco on Wednesday,” he said.
Chicken Inn’s back four against Zanaco comprised right-back Passmore Bernard, central defenders Moses Jackson and Ben Nyahunzi and Devine Lunga at left-back.
A slight knock on Bernard forced Antipas to shuffle his defence, pushing Jackson to the right, with Goddard partnering Nyahunzvi, while Lunga made way for veteran Brian Mbiriri.
Nyahunzvi, Goddard and Jackson are all competing for a place to partner national team centre-back Lawrence Mhlanga, who was in the Warriors’ African Nations Championship squad in Rwanda, when Chicken Inn take on Sundowns in the Caf Champions League in two weeks’ time.
The absence of skipper Danny “Deco” Phiri has also been felt as the industrious Brian Juru seemed to wander away from his anchorman role by venturing forward into attack and leaving defenders exposed.
Defensive midfielder Thabani Goredema, who had been expected to rotate the role with Juru, had his tournament cut short by a straight red card received in the first game.
Antipas has been trying different combinations, giving game time to 18 out of the 21-men squad that are on the tour. Only goalkeeper Wandile Ndlovu, defender Thulani Nxusani and attacking midfielder Amos Ncube have not had any game time.
Antipas is, however, happy that his team has managed to score in both games.
“We’re scoring and creating good chances, but we need to work on how we defend. The other good thing is that the guys have been showing lots of confidence on the ball, which means we’re getting somewhere in as far as preparations are concerned. We really have to work hard because there is no substitute for hardwork,” said Antipas.