By Sports Focus Reporter
With the Absa Premiership programme taking a breaking until early April, the National First Division took the centre stage as clubs intensified their quest for the title and playoffs berths, while others fought to move out of the relegation zone.
In the Inland Stream, Jomo Cosmos improved their chances of winning the title with a 2-1 victory away to FCAK, at Eldorado Park on Saturday.
At 41 points from 18 matches, Ezenkosi are nine points ahead of second placed Black Leopards, who also won 2-1 against Witbank Spurs at Tshifulanani Stadium, near Lwamondo in Venda.
With Cosmos almost the champions, Leopards are fighting off University of Pretoria for the valuable second spot to qualify for promotion playoffs.
Amatuks, as the varsity side is also known, beat doomed Batau FC 4-2 to stay two points adrift of Leopards – with three rounds of fixtures to go.
In a rainy Saturday afternoon at Pretoria’s Absa Tuks Stadium, the six-goal affair was a thriller in many ways, including two penalty misses and two efforts rebounding off the woodwork.
Tuks were off to a dream start, scoring within the opening minute when Thokozani Sekhotlong fired across the body of keeper Brendan Wardle and into the bottom corner of the net, following a clever ball by Mbulelo Wambi.
Steve Barker’s side doubled their lead when Njabulo Ntusi fired a low cross which was turned into the net by Batau’s Cameroon-born central defender Kerin Bantar.
It should have been 3-0 when Wardle was found wanting and brought down a Tuks attacker. But from the penalty spot Christopher Netshidzivhe skied the ball over the bar by some margin.
And another great chance went a-begging soon after for the hosts when Nqobile Mpala thudded a header against the bar.
Five minutes after the restart Batau’s woes worsened when Dennis Omino got his name the score-sheet, the Kenyan heading home a free kick from close range, a goal that exposed the visiting side’s poor marking; 4-0 to Tuks after 50 minutes.
The visitors from Ermelo gave themselves some hope when they pulled one back in the 58th minute after Tuks goal keeper Siya Mngoma clashed with Eddie Mathonsi, allowing Xolani Mabso to slot the ball into the roof of the net from 14-yards.
Eight minutes later Batau had the chance to add a second goal when Mathonsi was fouled by Ntusi and a penalty was awarded, but Mathonsi’s spot kick was weak and Mngoma made a comfortable save.
In fact Batau only had themselves to blame for not getting back into the game as they had a shot hit the bar and also saw Ntusi clearing Mbaso’s effort of the line.
With five minutes left the relegation battlers did pull another goal back as Maxwell Khubeka’s well-placed low drive from inside the box made it 4-2; too little too late though.
The result sees Sheppard Murape’s relegated side descending deeper into the quagmire, with just 11 points from 18 matches.
Batau are captained by former Kaizer Chiefs defender Cyril Nzama.
With the relegation argument settled in the Inland Stream, the battle against the axe continued to rage in the Coastal Stream. Second from the bottom Nathi Lions’ plight was worsened with a 1-0 loss to African Warriors, the same as basement side Hannover Park who went 3-0 to FC Cape Town at the Wynberg Military Stadium.
Hanover Park’s quest to avoid relegation suffered another blow on Sunday afternoon when they went down 3-0 to FC Cape Town at the Wynberg Military Stadium.
The scoring opened in the 65th minute, when Joseph Lekata was on hand up to blast home from close range after keeper Marlon Johnson had only been able to parry Mkhanyiseli Siwahla’s fierce drive from outside the box.
Siwahla got himself onto the score-sheet soon after when his attempted cross somehow ended in the back of the net.
With ten minutes left Lekata grabbed his brace when he received a pass from Siwahla and turned sharply in the box before finding the bottom corner of the net.
The result leaves Hanover Park rooted to the foot of the table with 11 points, three behind Nathi Lions.
In other Coastal action on Sunday, Bay United consolidated their position at the top of the log with a 0-0 away draw to Carara Kicks. David Bright’s side therefore extended their lead over Thanda Royal Zulu to six points, following the KZN side’s defeat to Blackburn Rovers on Saturday.