Mpumalanga Black Aces are aiming at collecting their first Absa Premiership points on the road when they travel to Cape Town’s Coetzenburg Stadium on Friday night to play Santos at 8pm.
Aces coach Sammy Troughton said that while his PSL rookies are unbeaten at home — winning two and drawing three of their eight fixtures at home — they have lost all three away matches.
”That away record has to change, and soon,” said Troughton. ”I reckon that we could have had more points than the nine we have collected from eight matches so far. We are playing well and have adapted to the top flight. But we have conceded some silly goals. But we are learning fast.”
Troughton appears to have played his trump card by making two key signings recent in the form of Zambian Clifford Mulenga and former Mamelodi Sundowns defender Shere Lekgothoane.
Mulenga played with Troughton at Pretoria University in the first division and later joined Wits, who in turn loaned him to Thanda Royal Zulu who were relegated and their place in the PSL was taken by Aces.
Troughton offered the former African Youth Player of the Year a lifeline when he signed Mulenga recently and the 21-year-old attacking midfielder has repaid that confidence by scoring three goals in the last two games. Mulenga scored in the 1-1 home draw against Free Stat Stars and scored both goals in last weekend’s 2-0 win over bottom club AmaZulu.
”Mulenga has a reputation of which I am well aware,” said Troughton. ”I am pleased with him at present. I threw him into the deep end despite the fact he was not fully fit. Now he is getting back to his best but he is still not 100%. I am keeping my eye closely on him and told him to keep his first on the ground.
”He is going to play a key role for Aces this season and I cannot afford to have him going off the rails. I have invested in him and so far so good as he is starting to repay the club with vital goals. He really is a special talent. But he needs to set targets this season.”
Troughton is expecting a tough battle against Santos who are lying fifth with 12 points.
”Santos will give my players a real test. It will be a new experience for most of them playing in Cape Town and I have warned them what to expect. I told them I want them to roll up their sleeves and be prepared to battle and fight for every ball. Santos are a strong physical side and we need to compete with them for every ball if we are to come away with our first away points.”
Apart from Mulenga, Troughton is happy with the way Lekgothoane and Tebogo Monyai have combined as the two central defenders.
”Lekgothoane is a left back but I decided to try him at centre half as he is good in the air and has presence. He and Monyai have looked really solid and that has had a stabilising effect on the team.”
Big spending flops Mamelodi Sundowns face a tough trip to the Woodburn Stadium in Friday night’s other fixture where they meet rejuvenated Maritzburg United.
Downs were beaten 2-1 at home by Ajax Cape Town last weekend and can expect little sympathy from United and coach Gordon Igesund.
The United coach was axed by Downs after he won the Premiership in 2007 and Igesund would love nothing better than to take three points from his former employers.
Downs have stuttered to their nine points from eight matches.
With all the money and expensive players at his disposal, Stoichkov should be at the top of the table instead of sitting in ninth position. – Sapa