Baxter’s focus on performance

ONTO IT!: SuperSport United's Thabo Moloi, left,  and Kaizer Chiefs'  George Maluleka   during their Absa Premiership match at the Peter Mokaba Stadium Picture: GALLO IMAGES -
ONTO IT!: SuperSport United’s Thabo Moloi, left, and Kaizer Chiefs’ George Maluleka during their Absa Premiership match at the Peter Mokaba Stadium Picture: GALLO IMAGES –

Coach philosophical after SuperSport end Chiefs’ unbeaten run

KAIZER Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter sought to temper the disappointment of the end of the club’s unbeaten run in the Premier Soccer League by praising his players’ performance rather than being concerned about the result.

But he warned that mental strength was now key to going on to win the championship.

“When the guys came back from the holiday break I told them I was not as much interested in results as I was in performance. I wasn’t happy about our performance against Township Rollers in the Champions League, but I was pleased with the performance against SuperSport United. They have always been a tricky team to play against.

“We’ve played a lot worse than we did on Tuesday night and won games. I’m happy that the guys are developing even though it was a bad result for us.”

Chiefs lost for the first time in the league this season, after 19 unbeaten matches, to SuperSport in Polokwane and have seen their 15-point lead at the head of the standings at the break of the season now whittled down to just 10.

“The players were gutted, sick to the pit of their stomachs,” Baxter said.

“They were really down in the dressing room but I told then not to be. Obviously we were all proud of being unbeaten and we wanted to try and keep it going as long as we could.

“Mental strength becomes very key now. If we don’t believe that we can win the championship then it is going to be difficult.”

But he refused to be drawn into any parallels with last season when Chiefs also let a large points lead slip and Mamelodi Sundowns caught them to take the title.

“You can’t guard against what happened last year. You just have to do what you’ve got to do. It’s always a battle to win the championship. If we can win three to four games on the bounce now, then I think we will put it out of question.

“Winning a championship is not about where you are halfway through the season . . . It’s about who picks it up at the end. I’m not focusing now on how big our lead is but rather just on our performances.”

Meanwhile, Gordon Igesund says SuperSport United want a top-eight finish and to use the rest of this season to prepare for a proper title challenge in the next campaign.

“It is difficult for us to talk about a championship now we are so far behind on points, so I want to prepare this squad to put up a challenge for the next season,” he said after his side ended Chiefs’ unbeaten run in the league with a 2-0 win.

Igesund, who has won five league titles with five different clubs, was parachuted in last year to rescue the club after a poor start to the season and now has them up to sixth in the PSL standings, albeit 20 points behind leaders Chiefs.

Igesund praised club chief executive Stan Matthews for the purchase of three players ahead of schedule in the January transfer window. “He worked hard to get Jeremy Brockie, Mothusi Gopane and Kingston Nkhatha into the club. They were only going to be bought at the end of the season but by getting next season’s players now, I have four extra months to work with them and get them into the culture of the club and what I want from them.”

New Zealand international Brockie now has two goals in his first two games while Nkhatha scored after just seven minutes of his debut last week.

Gopane has come on twice as a substitute since signing from Polokwane City.

SuperSport have also signed a pre-contract for next season with Luvolwethu Mpeta of Platinum Stars.

Having won the Telkom Knockout in November, Igesund said he was also keen on Nedbank Cup success. SuperSport host Polokwane City in Atteridgeville in the first round next Wednesday.

-Mark Gleeson

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