THE Premier Soccer League returns this Sunday as relegation-threatened University of Pretoria seek some festive cheer from a daunting away trip to Free State Stars in Bethlehem.
AmaTuks are in search of a first win outside their Tshwane back yard in a year and will be burdened by the pressure of knowing that no other PSL side has performed as badly as they have away from home over the past 12 months, with no victories and just five points gained in their 10 matches to date.
Their last away success came in December last year when they won 5-1 at Polokwane City as Geoffrey Massa, now at Bloemfontein Celtic, and Thabo Mnyamane bagged braces.
“We know that we need to improve in all areas and this will be another massive game for us,” AmaTuks coach Sammy Troughton said.
“We have been working hard during this long break.
“It will be time for the players to take what we have worked on and produce it on the pitch.
“A whole lot of small things that have gone against us have turned into one big problem.”
In truth, it is not just on the road where the Tshwane side have struggled – they have a single success in their last 21 matches in all competitions, both home and away.
AmaTuks have five points from nine matches this season, and are five behind Jomo Cosmos in the safety of 14th position.
They do have two games in hand on Ezenkosi, but it is matches like these against fellow sides in the bottom half of the table where they have to get something from the game.
But Stars have lost just one of their last eight league matches at home, a 1-0 reversal at the hands of Mpumalanga Black Aces in early August, and have shown huge signs of improvement under German coach Ernst Middendorp.
This fixture was rearranged from October, but had to be postponed when one of the new floodlight pylons at Goble Park blew down in strong winds.
Charles Mopeli Stadium, the club’s alternate ground, is not being used as it lacks running water.
Meanwhile, the proposed catchup match between Platinum Stars and Ajax Cape Town, scheduled for the same day, will not take place after the national U23 side reached the semifinals of their Africa Cup of Nations tournament in Senegal.
Owen da Gama’s squad have four Ajax players in goalkeeper Jody February, defenders Rivaldo Coetzee and Abbubaker Mobara, and winger Riyaad Norodien.