Benni McCarthy grappling with Cape Town City midfield losses
Cape Town City must negotiate the absence of two stalwart midfielders for the visit of Maritzburg United to Athlone Stadium in the Absa Premiership on Saturday (kickoff 3.30pm)‚ but coach Benni McCarthy says he has full confidence in his extended squad.
Thabo Nodada and Roland Putsche will be missing for the remainder of the campaign after suffering season-ending injuries in last Friday’s 3-0 victory over Highlands Park in the Nedbank Cup second round.
City have moved this week to bring in former Ajax Cape Town midfielder Travis Graham‚ but with the 25-year-old having not kicked a ball in anger in almost two years‚ he will take some time to come up to speed.
Graham will turn out in the club’s MultiChoice Diski Challenge side this weekend to get some game-time.
Mpho Matsi has been loaned out to Maritzburg for the remainder of the season and looks set to leave City when his contract expires at the end of the campaign.
That leaves Teko Modise and Thato Mokeke as the two likely central midfield options for City‚ though don’t rule out a shift in thinking from McCarthy‚ who has shown a willingness to experiment in the past. That could mean a place for youngster Shane Roberts.
“I believe in every player in my squad. I give them the confidence and the platform. You may not play consecutive [games]‚ but when you get that nod‚ I have to have the trust and the belief in them‚” McCarthy said.
“They know when they are out on the pitch they must fear nothing‚ they must just go and do what they do every day in training. If you make a mistake‚ lift your head up and go again.
“They have my full backing and my full trust‚ and I think that allows players to play with freedom and with a smile on their face. The results are coming – it’s nice.”
City are unbeaten in their last eight home games‚ and in the last three have scored 10 goals and conceded none.
That will make them a tall order for bottom side Maritzburg‚ who have shown glimmers of improvement under new coach Eric Tinkler.
Tinkler spent the 2016-17 season at City and enjoyed great success‚ but the squad is much changed from his time and that knowledge of the team is unlikely to be of much help.
Tinkler will hope his side can build some momentum from their 3-1 home win over Polokwane City last time out as they seek a first away league win since September. The side have lost their last five away games without scoring a goal.
“I was happy for the players‚ for the club. I allowed the players the weekend off to go and celebrate the win‚” Tinkler said.
“I think it was very important for them to switch off a little bit‚ be with the family‚ and then come back and refocus.
“We need a lot more wins to ensure our safety‚ because we are nowhere near that yet. But that was a positive start.
“It builds the motivation and the morale and the confidence of the team and you can see the mood swing since that result. There has been a positive mood in training.
“But what becomes very important‚ and I have told the players‚ is humility. The Polokwane win is a step in the right direction but there is still a lot of work that needs to be done to guarantee our safety.
“Unfortunately‚ with our situation we have to rely on others to drop points‚ so we still have a lot of work to do.”
Maritzburg could move off the foot of the table and into the relegation playoff position with a win‚ while City could climb into third if they get a victory and other results go their way.