Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
WHEN Tendai Ndoro failed to score, after being introduced as a substitute in the Soweto Derby on Saturday, the Zimbabwe international forward’s goalless run in the colours of Orlando Pirates clocked eight-and-half hours of a horror barren spell on the pitch.
After initially setting the stage alight at the start of the 2016 /2017 season, in which he scored 11 goals in 11 matches, Ndoro has now gone for three months without scoring a goal for the Buccaneers who have gone into a stunning free-fall.
Not only have players, including some who had scored only a couple of goals when Ndoro was enjoying his record-breaking goal-scoring spree caught up with him, in the race for the Golden Boot, but there are fears the Zimbabwean has terribly lost the confidence that made him the most prolific forward in Super Diski four months ago.
Lebogang Manyama, whose goals have been oiling Cape Town City’s surprise challenge for the league title, has caught up with Ndoro on 11 goals while Malawian international Gabadinho Mhango, with eight goals for Bidvest Wits, is only three shy of Ndoro.
Rodney Ramagalela of Polokwane City has eight goals while SuperSport United’s Jeremy Brockie has six goals.
Ndoro has also lost his place in the Pirates starting XI to South African international forward, Thamsanqa Gabuza, who started for the Buccaneers in the Soweto Derby which ended 1-1 before an estimated 70 000 fans at the FNB Stadium.
His stunning loss of form has coincided with Pirates losing their way with the Soweto giants winless in the past four months with their last victory in the league coming in a 1-0 away win over Chippa United on November 11 last year.
Back then, Ndoro — whose last goals came in the 2-2 draw against Highlands Park in which he scored a brace, including one from the penalty spot — was the star of the show and the buzz in South Africa was that he was going to scoop the Golden Boot, in record-breaking fashion, in a league where the top goalscorer usually fail to get more than 15 goals.
The Zimbabwean forward started the season with a bang and by the end of November he had scored 20 goals, in all competitions, in the calendar yet, with more set to come, from 28 starts.
His 10 goals in 12 starts in all competitions meant he was the first player to do so, in the history of the South African Premiership and such was his impact for his club that his goal tally made up for 90 percent of the goals that Pirates had scored by then.
But that was then.
And this is now and Pirates fans have started to wonder what has happened to the marksman who was leading their line with aplomb just a few months ago.
This was captured at the weekend when Ndoro used his Facebook page to salute the performance of the Buccaneers on Saturday.
“Great performance from the boys yesterday #UptheBucs,” said Ndoro.
But a reply from one of the club’s fans, Enock Manyoni, captured the frustration that was creeping among the supporters.
“#Fire7 (Ndoro) we miss your confidence! Your easy touches! Your easy goals in a difficult situations! Please focus Ntwana! Come back to the game, you are capable of doing it! Don’t rush relax and touch that ball into the net as you always do! Please Ndoro,” said Manyoni.
Pirates are winless in their last 11 league matches and that has coincided with Ndoro’s poor goal return during the same period while upheavals in the club’s coaching department has done little to help the team’s cause.
But, crucially, for Ndoro, the new coach Kjell Jonevret appears convinced that Gabuza is a better gamble than Ndoro and his decision to throw the South African into the Soweto Derby was testimony to that.
Ndoro, though, appears unfazed and had targeted the Soweto Derby to rediscover his scoring touch.
“No, I’m not worried at all . . . The results are not coming for us all, but we have to work again to pick ourselves up, especially for Saturday’s game,” Ndoro told SoccerLaduma.
“It would be a nice game to score again. First and foremost we want to win it to regain our confidence, because you know that if we win this game we go from zero to hundreds. It’ll be a crucial game for us as Orlando Pirates players.
“So far he’s (coach Jonevret) brought something new.
“We’re still waiting to see what comes next, but he’s a good man and he’s spoke to each of us.
“He’s giving us back the confidence that we lost. Right now everyone wants to play and everyone wants to fight. That’s a good thing, we need such coaches at Orlando Pirates.”
But Ndoro was only limited to 23 minutes of action in the Soweto Derby on Saturday, after coming in for Dove Wome, and he didn’t score when he was thrown into action.
He had also played 67 minutes in the 1-1 draw against Polokwane City, which he started, but was later pulled out, 10 minutes in the 2-2 draw against Cape Town City, 53 minutes against Bidvest Wits, 90 minutes in the 0-6 thrashing at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns and 90 minutes in the goalless draw against Platinum Stars.
He also played 80 minutes in the 1-2 defeat at the hands of Bloemfontein Celtic and another 90 minutes in the 1-2 defeat against Maritzburg United.
He failed to score in all these minutes on the field.
Pirates have lost four and draw six matches since Ndoro last scored.