Playoff history against Baroka to stay in PSL

Baroka FC celebrate a goal in their Absa Premiership encounter against Ajax
Picture: Gallo Images

Baroka FC enter the Premier Soccer League promotion-relegation playoffs tomorrow, knowing that history is against them as top-flight sides have had little joy since the competition was first played in the 2004-05 season.

Baroka travel to Stellenbosch FC in their mini-league opener and must take on Limpopo rivals Black Leopards as they seek to retain their top-flight status.

The top team in the round-robin tournament will play in the Absa Premiership next season.

In the 12 playoff events since the first‚ just three top-tier teams have managed to win.

Only AmaZulu (2006/07)‚ Mpumalanga Black Aces (2009/10) and Polokwane City (2013/14) have managed to buck the trend.

Last season, the University of Pretoria (AmaTuks) went bottom of the mini-league, as Highlands Park went up and Mbombela United just missed out.

The biggest reason for the failure of the top flight sides is momentum.

While the National First Division (NFD) teams come into the competition with a successful campaign and winning culture‚ for the PSL clubs it is the opposite, as failure and numerous losses eat away at confidence.

Baroka FC can point to a little bit of a run of form, though – they only lost one of their last six league games, although there was only a single win in there, too, with four draws.

When the playoffs were first introduced, they were played between four sides‚ 15th-place in the topflight and three teams from the NFD‚ paired off into two-legged semifinals and a final.

The format was changed to the current one in 2012.

Manning Rangers finished 15th in the Absa Premiership in the 2004-05 season and were entered into the first-ever playoffs‚ but came unstuck at the semifinal stage‚ losing 6-3 on aggregate to the now defunct Hellenic.

In 2005-06‚ Umthatha Bush Bucks did not even make the final‚ losing both legs to Vasco da Gama for a 4-1 aggregate score.

AmaZulu bucked the trend when they beat FC AK 4-1 on aggregate in the semifinals‚ before completing a 3-1 success over AmaTuks to become the first topflight side to retain their status through the playoffs.

Black Leopards were not so lucky‚ losing their 2007-08 semifinal to Bay United on a 2-1 aggregate, to drop a division.

Thanda Royal Zulu‚ who won automatic promotion this season‚ at least made the playoff final the following season in 2008-09‚ but could not keep their top-flight status in the end.

They defeated FC Cape Town in the semifinals‚ before losing 3-0 to Mpumalanga Black Aces on aggregate in the final.

Black Aces became the second top-flight side to retain a premier place through the playoffs, to be in the post-season competition.

They beat Nathi Lions 4-2 in the semifinals and Black Leopards 5-3 on penalties in the final, after the tie had finished 3-3 on aggregate.

But normal order was resumed in 2010-11, as Vasco da Gama could not retain their top-flight status and lost in the semifinals 4-2 on aggregate to Black Leopards‚ who went on to beat Bay United in the final.

Santos finished bottom of the 2012 mini-league.

But a year later, Polokwane City showed the way – with 10 points from a possible 12 – and they beat off Black Leopards and Milano United for top spot.

Moroka Swallows finished bottom of the 2014-15 league‚ before AmaTuks did likewise in the last campaign – with no victories.

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