Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
JUST a few weeks ago, Chicken Inn looked destined to pick up their second Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title since their promotion in 2011.
The Gamecocks were on top of the log with 51 points while fending off pressure from Dynamos, Ngezi Platinum Stars and FC Platinum. However, two consecutive defeats for Rahman Gumbo’s men have seen them slide down the log standings.
First, it was Yadah who shocked the Gamecocks 2-1 at Hartsfield on 9 September. Last Wednesday, Chicken Inn went down 1-0 to defending champions Caps United. It has not been a rosy last few weeks for the 2015 champions who face possible sanctions for their part in the abandoned Chibuku Super Cup first round fixture against Yadah at Ascot Stadium last Saturday.
This afternoon, Chicken Inn face city neighbours Highlanders, a team that only beat them once in league action, way back in 2011. Both sides have found the going tough in recent weeks but for Bosso, the state of affairs is even worse.
Highlanders last won a league encounter on 30 July when they defeated Shabanie Mine 2-0 at Maglas, since then, they have drawn three and lost four, an indication that things are not well at one of the biggest teams in the country.
Their latest setback came last Thursday when they drew 0-0 with bottom of the log-placed Bantu Rovers at Barbourfields. Bantu Rovers coach Methembe Ndlovu, the last man to hand Bosso a championship in 2006 even had the guts to field 15-year Sibusiso Moyo as a second half substitute.
Moyo, a Form Two pupil at Sizane High School did not seem fazed by facing one of the biggest teams in the land as he eased his way past a Highlanders midfield that had the likes of 32-year-old Tendai Ngulube and 31-year-old Allan Gahadzikwa.
Chicken Inn head into today’s battle as favourites to collect maximum points because of the way they have dominated against Highlanders in the past. In 13 league encounters between Chicken Inn and Highlanders, the Gamecocks have won six times, Highlanders have picked up maximum points just once with six of the encounters concluding in a stalemate.
Highlanders coach Erol Akbay, speaking after the draw with Bantu Rovers described today’s fixture as being a tough one seeing that they have not beaten Chicken Inn in such a long time.
“We have not won against these guys much but for us it’s very important that the players who were injured are back, this is only what we hope,’’ Akbay said.
The Bosso coach, who will not be renewing his contract when it expires at the end of this year, has received a boost with two of the players who were injured now back. Left back Honest Moyo and midfielder Rahman Kutsanzira are available for selection.
Against Bantu, Akbay chose to select Nedrick Madeya in goals for the first time this season and it is to be seen if he goes with the same once again.
Chicken Inn have been boosted by the return of their captain, Moses Jackson who sat out the midweek fixture against Caps United due to suspension after accumulating three yellow cards. Jackson’s header made the difference when the two teams met at the same venue in May.
Dynamos fans, who religiously occupy the Mpilo End even when their team is not playing at Barbourfields, are certain to be cheering for Highlanders this afternoon. Victory for Bosso would certainly aid DeMbare’s championship quest.
In other fixtures lined up for this afternoon, Hwange clash with Bulawayo City, Chapungu entertain ZPC Kariba, Triangle are up against Yadah, Dynamos face Harare City while Bantu Rovers take on Shabanie Mine.
Today: Hwange v Bulawayo City (Colliery), Chapungu v ZPC Kariba (Ascot), Triangle United v Yadah (Gibbo), Dynamos v Harare City (Rufaro), Chicken Inn v Highlanders (Barbourfields) , Bantu Rovers v Shabanie Mine (Luveve) — @Mdawini_29