When he was missing too many chances early this season‚ Justin Shonga was told by Orlando Pirates’ coaching staff to keep pressing on and work on the problem‚ and assured that he would not be dropped.
As top-of-the-Absa Premiership Pirates meet 14th-placed Maritzburg United at Orlando Stadium on Saturday night (kickoff 8.15pm)‚ Shonga has increasingly been blowing more hot than cold in front of goal.
The Zambian would have fine‚ intelligent performances around and in the box at the start of the season but missed some sitters.
“I think it was just a learning phase. I wasn’t performing well‚ missing a lot of clearcut chances‚” Shonga said this week.
“But I just had to lift my head. The coaches told me‚ ‘Don’t look down – we’re not going to let you down and we’re not going to drop you from the team because if you can’t score‚ then it’s better if you can assist through set pieces or open play’.”
As Pirates gain in confidence from an impressive winning momentum – since a 1-0 league defeat away against Bloemfontein Celtic on August 19 they have not lost in 13 games in all competitions‚ winning eight – so composure for their strikers seems sure to come easier.
Not that their frontline has performed poorly by any stretch. Winger Vincent Pule and forward Thembinkosi Lorch have five goals between them‚ and strikers Shonga and Augustine Mulenga four.
“I think it all comes from the training grounds. And it’s the analysis that the coaches do‚” Shonga said.
“They analyse the games before we even play‚ give us hints on how we are supposed to play.
“So when at least you have an idea of what you’re going to face as opponents‚ it comes easy for us players. It’s just that you need the right execution.”
Bucs are currently in a somewhat frenetic schedule of seven games in 25 days.
This week alone‚ after hosting Maritzburg‚ they travel to Seychelles for the second leg of their Caf Champions League preliminary-round tie against Light Stars FC with a 5-1 lead from the first leg.
Then a first trophy for coach Milutin Sredojevic‚ and first for Pirates since the 2014 Nedbank Cup‚ beckons in the Telkom Knockout final against Baroka FC at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.
PSL this weekend –
Chippa United 0 AmaZulu 1
Highlands Park v Cape Town City (Makhulong Stadium‚ 3.30pm)
Lamontville Golden Arrows v Kaizer Chiefs (Princess Magogo Stadium‚ 6pm)
Orlando Pirates v Maritzburg United (Orlando Stadium‚ 8.15pm)
Black Leopards v Bidvest Wits (Thohoyandou Stadium‚ 8.15pm)
Bloemfontein Celtic v Polokwane City (Dr Molemela Stadium‚ 3.30pm)
SuperSport United v Mamelodi Sundowns (Lucas Moripe Stadium‚ 3.30pm)