Ray Bande Senior Sports Reporter
FOOTBALL fans in Mutare are bracing for a return of Castle Lager Premiership action at Sakubva Stadium as the three Eastern Region Division One teams based in the city are maintaining their grip on the summit of the log standings with only NINE matches before the curtain comes down on the 2017 season.

Tomorrow, correctional services outfit Tenax face Mutare City Rovers in a potentially explosive top of the table clash at Sakubva Stadium. The three teams – Mutare City Rovers, Tenax and Buffaloes – collected maximum points in their respective assignments last weekend. Log leaders Mutare City Rovers thumped Mwenezana 2-0 to maintain pole position on the table on a day that the Correctional Services side ensured they stay in second place by dismissing Black Eagles 2-0.

Third-placed army outfit Buffaloes beat troublesome Gutu 4-2.  The dominance of the three Mutare-based clubs in the Eastern Region Division One League has given reasonable hope for a resident Premiership team next season to followers of the game in the eastern border city.

Mutare was left without a team in the domestic top-flight league following Mutare City Rovers’ relegation on the last day of the season last year. Talented Mutare City Rovers youthful defender Lincoln Mangaira is confident that his team will last the distance in this reverting Eastern Region Division One race for promotion.

“I think we can win the match against Tenax. We only need to stay focused and never lose concentration throughout the match because we are the better team. In fact, we are confident that we will go all the way to win the Eastern Region championship,” he said.

Fitting in the big shoes of departed Themba Ndlovu at Mutare City Rovers could have been a mammoth task even for an experienced pair of legs, but 20-year-old Mangaira is proving to be the next big thing to emerge from the dusty streets of Dangamvura.   Gifted with fine ball control, agility and steadiness, Mangaira has fitted well in the heart of Gusha Bhora’s defence where he has become an apt replacement for Ndlovu who joined Chapungu recently. His coach Kenny “Bokande” Kachara said the continued dominance of Mutare teams in the league was good for the city.

“I think this is something good for Mutare and Manicaland at large. It is not good not to have a team in the Premiership in the province. It is not even healthy for the game in the country. Yes, as Mutare City Rovers we want to get promoted into the top-flight league, but at the end of the day it should be all about Mutare. Whether it is Mutare City Rovers, Tenax or Buffaloes, all we want is to have a team based in Mutare that is in the Premiership,” said Kachara.

Magusha, as City Rovers are fondly referred to by their fans, are likely to get the three points from their abandoned tie against Gutu a fortnight ago. Gutu walked off the pitch in protested against a late penalty awarded to the visiting team thus precedence demands the team that caused the abandoned of the match by walking off the pitch lose the three points on a 3-0 scoreline. However, the log leaders will have to wait a little bit longer before they know the fate of that aborted encounter.

“We are having the hearing today (Wednesday) in Masvingo and that is where we will make the final decision with all parties represented. We can only make public the final decision after we have notified the interested parties in writing,” said Zifa Eastern Region secretary Simba Wisdom.