By Mukudzei Chingwere
BATTLING Nichrut poured scorn on Highlanders chances of landing this season’s league ultimate prize after holding the visiting Bulawayo giants in an engaging Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match at Ascot Stadium in Gweru yesterday.
Bosso had to once again rely on the well documented heroics of goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda from 12 yards, the veteran keeper denied former Dynamos son Themba Ndlovu from the spot.
Tshilamoya were coming from a prolonged break following the postponement of their eagerly anticipated clash with Dynamos and signs of lack of match fitness from the players showed in the opening stanza.
Yesterday’s stalemate means Bosso are now on a distant 16 points behind leaders FC Platinum who collected maximum points against Chapungu on the same match day.
Highlanders stand-in coach Mandla Mpofu, however, felt that it does not matter that their title chances are dwindling by each match day saying winning the title was never part of his team’s agenda.
“We are not racing anything we are taking each game as it comes, we want to collect as much points as possible, but a point on the road we cannot complain. The objective of the club is clear, we are building a team that can compete and win trophies in the next two years or so.
So this year it is about preparations for the coming years and so far we are in the right direction,” he said.
“But looking at the overall game strategy we had two forced substitutions and it is not easy for a coach to plan, but the players who came in did very well,” said Mpofu.
Highlanders got the first meaningful chance at goal with Nigel Makumbe’s swerving free-kick into the bottom corner but MaShurugwi’s glove man, Stanley Chakwana was alert to push the ball out for a corner.
Moments later veteran forward Roderick Mutuma got a chance for the host on the opposite end but delayed pulling the trigger allowing the visitors to clear their lines.
After half an hour of action Bosso got a chance to open the scoreboard when Themba Ndlovu was deceived by the flight of the ball but Godfrey Makaruse the beneficiary missed the target.
Six minutes before the breather Nichrut thought they had surged ahead but captain of the day Tatenda Hapazari’s effort was ruled out for offside by referee Milton Mupfumbate.
Moments later Mutuma was menacing, proving too much to handle for the visiting defence, he put the ball well under control but his effort missed the target. On the stroke of halftime MacClive Phiri fouled a goal bound Mutuma inside the box and the referee did not hesitate pointing straight to the spot.
Former Dynamos man Ndlovu stepped up and was denied from the spot by Sibanda. After the breather rising star Makumbe took the matter into his own hands and was proving unplayable, at the hour mark he tried from range but Chakwana was alert to push the ball wide.
Four minutes from time new signing Tafadzwa Sibanda almost grabbed a debut goal for the Bulawayo giants but his diving header failed to hit the back of the net.
Nichrut Coach John Nyikadzino praised his charges for a brave performance against Highlanders and also took the opportunity to assure his fans that the team will preserve their premiership status at the end of the season.
“The boys gave their all but we could not punish Highlanders even from the penalty spot, but I want to say Ariel is a good penalty stopper and he did it again against us today.
“Overall I am happy with the performance of the players, we are improving by each game, getting a point against a big team like Highlanders is commendable. I also want to affirm that we are in the premiership to stay, we will not be relegated,” said Nyikadzino. Sunday News.