Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Highalanders versus How Mine eye witness account - as I saw it

Highlanders were beaten 1-2 by Castle Premier League debutantes, neighbours How Mine FC at Barbourfields Stadium on the chilly Sunday afternoon of the 19th May 2013. The objective was to enjoy a good match but without a vuvuzela to make noise and be wild, for me then becomes a futile exercise. I begin to see much more than I paid for. 

At R300 a pair of tickets, there must be value for money at least from both the team and the environment. With boxes of good chicken, an old friend brought it the flavour by buying a cup or two of home-cooked ground nuts and the chilly weather was forgotten for a while.

The first comparison of the two teams came from their physical appearance, normally not a big issue, but those who saw the teams from the early 1990s will attest that maybe not by height, but by mass, Bosso was the heaviest team by huge margins and for a long time. Not just because of Douglas Mloyi, Peter Nkomo, Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo and Mercedes Sibanda who were stocky, but all the materials was of firm size. 

How Mine players looked much heavier and were fitter. They were more enthusiastic getting for the business of the day and for me that's the most vital. It is the reason why I try never to miss a warm up of any match. It tell me the whole story before the kick-off. 

Given my limited knowledge of the team composition, many already lamented the omission of experience players - Mthulisi Maphosa, Innocent Mapuranga and Njabulo Ncube who were benched. For sure, I had a brief conversation with Cosmas Zulu who expressed the same sentiments. That showed me people had a clue what they are talking about. Only the names are familiar to me but I have never seen these players in action, save for Ncube that I coached as a 16 years old.

Let's talk football. One very obvious thing that struck right in my face was the keeping of positions by players. Some did a good job as the adjusted according to the situation, which was not entirely good. The anchorman as an example, spent most of the time in front of the central defenders without picking up anyone. When How Mine attacked he drifted to the left and left the central defence exposed.

This was never his problem. The problem was that the left back religious kept his number or position with and without cause. How Mine's number 27 went deep into midfield and sometimes defence to pick up the balls. In running forward with the ball, he managed to get players in front of him criss-crossing to out-manoeuvre the left back and the anchorman drifted to fight the fire.

The problem here is that the fire was never supposed to start. The left-back was supposed to press up higher and then leave enough room for the anchorman to support the right and left side when How Mine came. That was a huge tactical problem.

Still, Bosso under pressure are very brittle. The defensive organisation diminished and the visitors coach, a very close friend of mine, Philani Mabhena was supposed to utilise that and exploit the situation. The shape gets lost and the commitment to good defending was completely absent.

Under attack, one man was meant to charge towards the ball while others monitor the front runners. In all occasions, the situation could be described as being in sixes and sevens. I wish to state that this is a postmortem of a single match that went wrong. Highlanders surely are capable of doing much better but all of us have a bad day in office.

Many of these situations were captured on my camera phone hoping to discuss them over coffee with the gaffer, but the meeting failed to materialise due to the commitments of our schedules that were parallel. 

In attack, the team never played football in midfield. The ball came to the centre of the park but the decision making was very bad. A wrong pass followed another on several successive occasions. With the basic formation that has four defenders, the line between them must resemble a dish - left back, centre-half, centre-half and right back. The ball must follow that movement or pattern. The same goes for the midfield. 

This can be limited to the attacking third were the pace picks up and a little enterprise is required. Highlanders midfielders left a yawning gap between themselves and the attack, the space which was well utilised by the referee. I pointed to my colleagues gaps that would fit 3 to 4 buses being driven across the field with the match on.

This became the reason for inept and blunt attacks as the team came over the half-way and started delivering crosses from there. There was never a ball that was taken to the by-line and then cut back. All this crossing from the midfield was training session for the slow gold-miners who had the veterans in Gilbert Banda and Hebert Dick. It is the sought of football no one can beat them to in the whole world.

Besides the wrong and bad choices in passing, there was a big lack in technique execution. Players used wrong surfaces of the body to control or push a pass. There is a lot of many other small issues to look at but it was clear that How Mine suffered more or less similar issues, but their crew was much more experienced. Take the goals they scored as an example.

They never gave up and the equalising goal came from a corner kick that was well whipped to the secondary post and then headed back across goal. The winner was a give away ball after a school boy mistake and the dink over the goalkeeper was pure class.

Highlanders had the most intelligent player on the pitch, who wore jersey number 10. They said his name is Milton Ncube. The boy read the game well and tried to organise others but he does not have much authority. I saw a few touches of his for my liking. To fill the midfield gap I talked about earlier on, this is one man who should be asked to get in there and do whatever he likes. He should be the preferred recipient of all passes to deliver the killer pass.

The attacks should revolve around him to quickly and effectively penetrate defences. I am unsure of a player who made one single run on the left wing in the second half, getting into the box and finally making a bad effort by shooting wide and weak. That is a players with a lot of potential.

Many times, the players never realised how much space they had when attacking high balls in defence or midfield. They ended up blasting the ball away while they could have trapped the ball and passed it well and then entering into space to support the ball. That is the traditional Highlanders way. There were bad choices of when to pass or run with the ball and the players never rose to the party despite being the hosts.

There is much detail we can dwell on but let me finally express the goalkeepers. While there was not much to do for them, they saw to much ball and then all they did was clonk it up and high into no-man's land. As is always the case the ball came back to them in no time. The keepers could have made sure the pushed all men upfront, roll the ball outside their 18 yard box and then make accurate long kicks.

The commanding of the box was done better by the visitors minder and he was superb with aerial balls missed by Banda and Dick. I think with good reason, Munyaradzi Diya, like his outfield colleagues, do not trust each other with the ball. The further up field the ball, the better. It did not matter who had the ball, as long as it was away from goal.

It is one culture that left me a little disappointed. As team mates, it is essential for all to bank their salaries and winning bonuses on each other, that the ball is safe with the other guy and if he loses it, we get it back as soon as possible, or at least make sure it doesn't get to certain people or areas. The pace of match was very slow, actually being flatly lukewarm throughout except just after the Highlanders goal.

It reminded me how the fans also wanted to cheer up when the team did well, instead of cheering the team to do well. Fans were there to be entertained, not to spur the team forward, which is very sad. It was going to be a lovely day and a good vibey Sunday had the results been good and reading this would have been boring if the team won.