Steve Barker’s Stellenbosch FC in strong position for promotion to the PSL
Amidst the hurly-burly of the Absa Premiership season‚ it has gone almost unnoticed that National First Division (NFD) side Stellenbosch FC have put themselves on the path to automatic promotion and a return to the top-flight for coach Steve Barker.
Stellenbosch are away at bottom side Real Kings on Sunday‚ and could potentially open a massive 10-point lead at the top of the table with what will then be only seven rounds to play.
The numbers all stack up in the winelands club’s favour – they have scored the most goals this season (31)‚ conceded the least (13) and have only lost three of their 22 games to date.
“We have laid a good foundation to do something special and now it is about maintaining focus in the last quarter of the league‚” Barker told TimesLIVE.
“We are on track with where we want to be‚ but we have to stay humble and worry only about the next training session‚ the next meal we eat and the next gym session.
“The worst thing we could do now is try and get ahead of ourselves‚ we need to finish what we have started.”
Barker has the smallest squad in the division‚ just 24 players‚ including goalkeepers‚ but said that has knitted the group together.
“It is a tight squad‚ but a squad that has unity and togetherness‚ who are willing to fight for one another.
“It has been difficult to manage to make sure we are not affected too much by injuries and suspensions‚ but we have managed that aspect well.”
The side have been boosted as well by the goals of Iqraam Rayners‚ who at the age of 23 is starting to fulfill the promise he showed previously at Santos. He has 14 goals this campaign and is the leading marksman in the league.
“He now has had good experience in this league‚ playing in different positions‚ but he is a player with exceptional pace and is underrated in terms of his technical expertise‚” Barker said.
“He gets himself into good positions and has a good eye for a goal. He has been reaping the rewards of that all season.”
Real Kings may be 26 points worse off than Stellenbosch in the league‚ but Barker is experienced enough to know that they will present a challenge on Sunday and a potential banana skin for his side.
“I know this league relatively well and I know Real Kings are due a good performance‚” he said. “There are not many teams that go five games without a win‚ so it does make them difficult.
“They have to win‚ so it is all about us going there with the right commitment and focus.
“Having said that‚ we are in the position we are in because of how we have played this season and they are where they are for the same reason. If we continue the way we have been going then we should be fine.”