Barker – Usuthu ready for final promotion push

AmaZulu head coach Steve Barker is happy with his team’s preparations ahead of their upcoming National First Division (NFD) match against Thanda Zulu Royals on Sunday afternoon.

The team is set to return to NFD action following a three-week break in which they played a friendly match against Absa Premiership side Lamontville Golden Arrows.

However, Usuthu have injury concerns ahead of the KwaZulu-Natal derby clash with Amabhubhesi which will be played at the Princess Magogo Stadium in Durban. Kick-off is at 3pm.

“Unfortunately, from an injury point of view, players like Tapelo Nyongo and Mbongeni Gumede are still out injured. Nyongo is still out for another six to eight weeks. Gumede is not available this weekend. He recently started full training. But he will be available next weekend,” Barker said.

“Thabo Moloi has rejoined full-training. But he is not 100% match fit after been out for two months. He still regaining full match fitness. He is likely to feature against Thanda. But I cannot not guarantee that. He did play in a friendly against [Golden] Arrows recently. But we will decide this weekend,” he continued.

The former University of Pretoria coach revealed that the return of experienced Senegalese centre forward Mame Niang has given his side a much needed boost.

“It is good to have Niang back from suspension. He missed two games. So his return has boosted us. That’s all regarding our suspensions and injuries. Our preparations have gone well. I think players like Moloi and Niang have benefited from the break as they worked on their mental and physically aspects of their game,” he explained.

“The players have shown great commitment, work ethnic and attitude during the three weeks that we have been inactive. There are seven league games left and there are no more breaks. We will be playing every weekend. So we used this period to sharpen up and get players’ conditions up to speed tactically and technically.

Barker admitted that other results will have to go their way if his side are to win promotion back to Absa Premiership. Furthermore, the KwaZulu-Natal side also need to focus on winning all of their remaining matches in order to stand a chance of gaining promotion come May 2016.

“Realistically speaking, we can accumulate 55 points if we win all of our remaining matches. But I’m not sure if it will be enough for us to get promoted. Too many teams will have to drop points. But we will play three teams that are above us on the log and we have four home games plus games against teams based in our province. Lots permutations will have to go our way,” he stressed.

“We just have to focus on ourselves at this stage of the season. We want to finish the season as strong as possible. We have to reward us ourselves as we have had a frustrating season. There are many games that we did not deserve to lose, but we did lose them.

“We need to improve and be ruthless when we are on top of teams. For example against Baroka we played really well, but we could not convert the opportunities that we could,” Barker added.

The 48-year-old tactician explained that Thanda’s current struggles in the league make them a dangerous side, but he backed his side to walk away victorious against their Provincial rivals.

“They have their own problems and they are not out of danger yet. They are also desperate to get maximum points like us. Both teams will need to go out and show the eagerness to win the game. That’s exactly what we shall do,” he said.

“We have to expect that from them too. But we have nothing to lose at this stage of the season. We have to have an attacking and positive mindset. We have to put ourselves in good positions to win games and the only way to do that is by scoring goals and playing good quality attacking football,” Barker concluded.

Usuthu were held to a 2-2 stalemate by Witbank Spurs in their previous league match at the Puma Rugby Stadium in Witbank. Zaid Patel and Marc Van Heerden were on the scoresheet for the visitors.

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