Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
THE mid-season Premiership break will have greater significance to Ngezi Platinum who have been forced back to the drawing board after losing steam in the championship race. The Mhondoro-based platinum miners have had a sudden dip in form and lost substantial ground in the race after suffering consecutive defeats in the last three matches. The stagnation has given defending FC Platinum the advantage in the championship race and setting the stage for an explosive second half between the platinum sides.
Defending champions FC Platinum stretched their lead at the top by six points when they beat giants Highlanders to sign off on a high. But things have taken a different turn for Ngezi Platinum, who had set a club record of 14 matches unbeaten, and led the race for the most part of the season. But they have lost substantial ground with the losses to Bulawayo Chiefs, FC Platinum and Black Rhinos.
Ngezi Platinum coach Tonderai Ndiraya believes his side had slipped into a comfort zone.
“This is football, but, of course, losing three games in a row is not a good thing. It really dents our chances of winning the title. But we still have 17 games and that is a very long way to go. We just have to lift ourselves from the mess we find ourselves in, and I think we can. Thank God we have we have a mid-season break coming. So we have about two weeks to recharge and re-energise ourselves and then start all over again.
“Yes, we have lost our third game in a row, which is quite disappointing, but look we had also gone for 14 goals unbeaten and that is a record which probably got us into a very comfortable zone, which I think, and believe, has brought us into this situation.
“This is a very big test of character for my boys. When you are on top, naturally, when you fall down you fall down hard and that’s what we have done in the past three games. But we remain hopeful. We know what we want to achieve. It’s a long journey although a six-point difference is quite huge but we will keep fighting,” said Ndiraya.
Two-time championship winning coach Joey Antipas yesterday said the two teams are likely to continue dominating in the second round. Eight points separate second-placed Ngezi Platinum and his team Chicken Inn who are in third place.
Giants CAPS United moved into fourth place. Lloyd Chitembwe’s men have been battling for consistent performances but 29 points put them in a good position ahead of the second round matches.
Shabanie Mine, Bulawayo City, Nichrut, Chaopungu and Mutare City have been the worst performers of the first round with less than 14 points each after 17 starts.
Bottom-placed Mutare have won only two games and have 11 points in the bag.