Township Rollers’ emergence from a poor run was ruthlessly smashed in a 3-1 reversal at home to featherweights, BR Highlanders on Wednesday night. Their fading pursuit of a second successive title spectacularly rolled further back, leaving the Mascom Top 8 derby final against Gaborone United with a new meaning, argues Staff Writer, MQONDISI DUBE
BR Highlanders served Township Rollers an unwanted reminder that the first half of the season is long past. That time, when Rollers harassed and harangued opponents, big and small, flew away with 2014.
Rollers’ title destiny is no longer written in the stars; in fact their fortunes appear twisted.
After a seamless run in the first half of the season in which Rollers were unbeaten in 17 matches, the juggernaut is not rolling anymore.
It occasionally sputters; like it did in a 4-1 aggregate demolition of BDF XI in the Mascom Top 8. The 2014 remnants were also evident in a 4-2 canter over Extension Gunners in January.
And those were the only significant reminders about the 2014 run. Five defeats have come thick and fast in the league, with even lightweights joining the punch feast.
Their 2015 CAF Champions League campaign is in the dustbins of history, their league challenge is in dire need of a kiss of life.
If their CAF statistics are included, the defeats count rises to seven; and suddenly Rollers appear on the ropes. The Rollers family would probably rue disturbing their line-up with a glut of signings in January.
The arrival of stars, Jerome Ramatlhakwana, Noah Maposa and Dirang Moloi among others, has produced an unintended consequence; dimming their shine. With the league title appearing more black and white of Mochudi Centre Chiefs than the blue of Township Rollers, coach Madinda Ndlovu will ask his charges to at least deliver the only realistic silverware; the Mascom Top 8 Cup.
But, his former team mate at Highlanders and the Zimbabwe national team, Rahman Gumbo’s eyes are also firmly on the prized trophy, which gives the winner P1 million.
Gaborone United are fourth in the league and appear out of contention, meaning the Top 8 trophy chase assumes meaning. Both sides were at their breath taking best on their way to the final, a sharp contrast to their league form.
Gumbo has a trophy magnet and has already proved his mettle, landing league titles in three different countries.
Ndlovu is respected as a shrewd tactician who has made winning trophies in the last four seasons his habit. Now, their employers are desperate for something in the cabinet, to rescue some shine after difficult league campaigns. Both teams are mathematically in league contention with Rollers seven points adrift the leaders while GU are nine points away. But, it would take gargantuan efforts to overhaul revitalised Chiefs with only eight games left in the campaign.
As the two huff and puff behind Chiefs, they might be forced to abandon the chase and re-align their target to a new operation aimed at landing the coveted and magnificent Top 8 trophy.