CAPE TOWN – Stellenbosch FC took an enormous step towards safety after bagging a narrow 1-0 victory over Golden Arrows in a Premiership clash at Tuks Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Before the domestic season came to a halt amid the pandemic coronavirus, the top-flight rookies had hit a slump in form in their last two matches, which they lost to Maritzburg United and Mamelodi Sundowns respectively.
That underwhelming run ensured that there were narrow margins separating them from the relegation dogfight as they were only four points ahead from the 13th positioned Baroka FC and seven from basement dwellers Black Leopards.
However, this victory under the scorching temperatures of the nation’s capital have ensured that Steve Barker’s men are a stone throws away from teams campaigning for a finish in the top-eight, ahead of the restart.
Stellies deserves plaudits for putting the foot on the accelerator from the outset, especially after the departure of integral goalkeeper Boy de Jong who terminated his contract and returned to Netherlands before the imposed national lockdown.
The financial constraints of the coronavirus also forced the club to decide against temporarily extending the contracts of Morgan Gould and Iqraam Rayners, who’ve already linked up with next season’s employers SuperSport United.
But nonetheless it appears that Barker’s preparations for the new campaign are already bearing fruit, especially managing to hold on for three points, against a top-eight chasing Arrows, with 10-men after Ovidy Karuru got his marching orders in the last 18 minutes.
Granted that coach Steve Komphela is well aware that it might take a while before his troops warm up to the requirements of the restart after the five-month lay-off but he’ll be disappointed by the overall outing especially after his team started the second half as the better team.
Two minutes before Ashley Du Preez got his team’s lead that proved to be the winner after capitalising on a defensive scuffle by Arrows, the Lamontville-based side had come closer to finding the leader after Danny Phiri forced a good save out of goalkeeper Lee Langeveldt, who was making his eight start in the league this season.
After ending the match with 10-men, Stellies will take the three points and confidence heading into the Cape Town derby on Thursday against Cape Town City, who also returned to domestic football with a narrow 1-0 victory over Chippa United on Friday.