Dingilizwe Ntuli Sports Editor
BULAWAYO giants Highlanders are languishing in ninth position on the league table with 22 points off 17 games. Out of the 17 games, Bosso have won five, drawn seven and lost five.
They have scored 17 goals and worryingly conceded 15, which points to a very serious problem at the back that needs to be addressed urgently if Bosso is to climb up the ladder in the second half of the season.
That they have conceded 15 goals in 17 games points to the fact that the club is facing a goalkeeping crisis. Goalkeepers have their ups and downs, but when the downs outweigh the ups in almost every game, it raises concern. For example, at Barbourfields Stadium last Sunday, Bosso keeper Njabulo Nyoni flopped at a flick from Takesure Chinyama which ended up denying the Bulawayo giants a deserved win over fierce rivals Dynamos.
Bosso had barely settled for the second half when Nyoni failed to command his area authoritatively resulting in a soft goal that could have been prevented had he communicated better with his defence.
That was the second goal he had conceded in the three matches that he has been between the sticks for Bosso. The other one was in the 1-1 draw against Triangle at the same venue a few weeks ago. He then managed to keep a clean sheet in the reverse fixture at Gibbo Stadium.
His goalkeeping partner Aerial Sibanda has also had his inconsistencies conceding 11 of the 15 goals Bosso have let in so far.
Takunda Mutanga let in two goals when Highlanders lost 2-1 to city rivals Chicken Inn. The goalkeeper, who showed lots of promise, has been AWOL from training.
While Bosso strikers are to blame for failing to kill off games, the goalkeepers’ season has been abysmal too with shaky performances characterised by conceding harmless goals.
Clean sheets are a rarity and questions have rightly been raised at their ability compared to other keepers in the Premiership. If Bosso were not conceding, it means they would only need to score one goal to win a game, but not with Nyoni and Sibanda.
Their ability to deal with crosses is highly questionable with more than 70 percent of goals they concede coming from crosses.
If keepers repeatedly make the same mistakes, then the problem should be pinned on their training methods.
Maybe Highlanders’ goalkeeping coach Peter Nkomo is failing to equip Sibanda and Nyoni with the latest techniques to effectively command their goal area with confidence.
It’s worrying when a keeper in this day and age struggles with crosses and the problem persists with no attempt whatsoever at rectifying it.
Nyoni’s frailties were exhibited in the disallowed Dynamos goal in the 39th minute when he gingerly jumped to collect a cross and the ball slipped through his hands when Chinyama headed him.
Yes, it was an infringement, but the truth is that Nyoni had not firmly clutched the ball and another referee could have given the goal on another day.
Nkomo should consider upgrading his coaching techniques as he seems to be using the same methods that worked for him yesteryear as a goalkeeper. Football has evolved from the days he starred as a keeper for Bosso and as long as he does not adopt new coaching techniques, Sibanda and Nyoni will continue to let in soft and silly goals. Actually those who played with Nkomo will testify that Captain Oxo struggled with crosses himself and he seems to have transferred his deficiency onto Nyoni and Sibanda.
Goalkeeper coaching is a speciality and if keepers repeat mistakes for more than three matches, it means the problem lies with the specialist.
No wonder FC Platinum let Nkomo leave his post as goalkeeping coach at the end of his contract in 2012. Perhaps the platinum miners realised that their weakest link was the goalkeeping department.
Nkomo was signed by Bosso at the beginning of 2013 at the expense of national Under-23 trainer Tembo Chuma, and since then, their goalkeepers’ performances have been awful.
A serious coach would welcome serious contention for starting berths in goals, but at Bosso, there are two goalkeepers who are not yet at the level a team aspiring to challenge for the title should be.
There is no competition as the other knows that if he doesn’t play, he would definitely be on the bench. A serious third keeper is needed to shake things up and eliminate the present automatic selection into the team.
Lack of consistency in team selection is another undoing for Bosso as constant rotation prevents the creation of a good understanding between a goalkeeper and his defenders. Communication is a vital component of the squad and the current chopping and changing of players’ affects rhythm as the backline keeps changing almost on a weekly basis.