By Godknows Matarutse
Five matches, four wins and a single draw while conceding just once has given Bulawayo giants Highlanders an almost perfect start to this year’s Castle Lager Premiership season.
But Sunday’s Bulawayo derby against neighbours Chicken Inn at Barbourfields Stadium will give another litmus test to Madinda Ndlovu’s fledglings.
Ndlovu, who took over from Dutch coach Erol Akbay at the start of the year, will have his work cut out for him.
Highlanders are not the same team they were in the past seasons after Ndlovu made an overhaul to the entire squad.
The former Mochudi Centre Chiefs coach chose to do away with old horses such as Simon Munawa, Eric Mudzingwa, Ralph Matema and Tendai Ngulube among others and opted to promote juniors from the club’s Division One side, Bosso 90 and their Under-19 side.
Apart from retaining some bright young prospects like Brian Banda, Charlton Siamalonga, Godfrey Makaruse, Ray Lunga and Adrian Silla, Bosso have acquired the services of former Hwange and Bulawayo City striker Newman Sianchali.
Part of the young blood added into the fold is utility player Nigel Makumbe, who is on loan from FC Platinum, Munyaradzi Chitambwe and Ben Musaka.
Despite the new-look squad, Bosso have impressed thus far.
Bosso have already prevailed over Chicken Inn this year in the ZNA Charities Shield. But Sunday’s game will be a totally different ball game all together. On their part the Gamecocks have not been bad this season, managing three wins, a defeat and a draw to sit fourth on the log table with 10 points.
Last week, they were handed their first defeat of the season at the hands log leaders Ngezi Platinum Stars, something coach Joey Antipas feels they need to rectify as soon as possible.
That match seemed to be headed for a goalless draw but defender Passmore Bernard failed to clear a goal kick taken by Ngezi goalkeeper Donovan Bernard.
That allowed Madamburo forward Clive Augusto to race clear before firing the winning goal in the first minute of added time.
“Setbacks happen in football but we have to move on and dust ourselves up and prepare for the next fixture,” Antipas told the Daily News.
“We got hit with a sucker punch in Ngezi and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
“We are facing a Highlanders bubbling with confidence but as Chicken Inn we are ready for them. We are still in preparation mood and looking forward to a good game.”
Generally, Chicken Inn enjoy a good record over Highlanders in the 14 league matches the two sides have faced each other since the Gamecocks’ promotion to the top flight in 2011.
Antipas’ side have won six of those meetings while six matches have ended in draws. Bosso only have two wins in this fixture’s history.
Today: Black Rhinos v Chapungu (Rufaro)
Tomorrow: Mutare City v Bulawayo Chiefs (Vengere), FC Platinum v Harare City (Mandava), Herentals v Bulawayo City (Rufaro), Nichrut v ZPC Kariba (Ascot)
Sunday: Triangle United v CAPS United (Gibbo), Shabanie Mine v Ngezi Platinum (Maglas), Chicken Inn v Highlanders (Barbourfields), Dynamos v Yadah (Rufaro). DailyNews