POPA RETURN TO LEAGUE AGAINST ORAPA
Having crashed out of the Mascom Top8 in spectacular fashion, Township Rollers will be looking for salvation in the league as they bid to kick-start their faltering season.
Rollers travel north to the heart of the Boteti this Saturday where they will face an Orapa United side harbouring title aspirations of their own.
Reeling after last weekend’s shock penalty shootout defeat at the feet of an inspired Gaborone United – a tie they led 2-0 at one point – Popa’s recent league form gives their supporters little reason for confidence.
The three-time defending champions have won just one of their last five league games – a 6-0 thrashing of BR Highlanders last time out.
Although they currently sit top of the table, two points clear of Jwaneng Galaxy and three ahead of third-placed Orapa, Mapalastina’s morale is low. They need a win and they need it badly!
However, in Orapa United, Rollers are up against a side that have only lost once at home in the league all season – a surprise 2-0 loss against relegation-threatened Prisons XI. Indeed, the Ostriches have turned Itekeng Stadium into a fortress, collecting 23 points from a possible 30.
Having beaten Rollers when the two clubs met back in November, the Oranges will be quietly confident of completing an unlikely league double over the Blues.
Adding another fascinating dimension to a game layered in intrigue is the fact that Orapa’s Assistant Coach Teenage Mpote spent many years in the dugout with Rollers.
Speaking to Voice Sport this week, Mpote said he was buzzing with excitement ahead of Saturday’s meeting with his former club.
Reflecting on their surprising 3-1 defeat against GU in their last match, Mpote insisted it was just a blip.
“We lost in our last game against GU not because we were not playing well but silly mistakes. We have been working on them at training and I expect the boys to deliver. We are still in the league race and we will fight to maintain a position that will pressurise both Rollers and Jwaneng Galaxy.
“All eyes are on the league championship since Rollers is also out of Top8 campaign,” said Mpote, who revealed all players were available for selection apart from the club’s injured striker, Omaatla Kebatho.
For his part, Rollers Coach Rodolf Zapata said he anticipates a tough match.
The Argentine cut a desolate figure during his side’s GU meltdown.
However, he insisted failure to reach the Top8 final had not put him under any added pressure – even though retaining the trophy was reportedly one of the directives he was given when he took over.
“Orapa are very competitive with good players but I believe in my boys. Motsholetsi Sikele will miss the game because he got a red card in the Top8 match. We have a couple of injuries that will affect our lineup. Lemponye Tshireletso, Tshepo Motlhabankwe and Segolame Boy are likely to miss this fixture,” said Zapata.
Midfield kingpin Ofentse Nato is also expected to miss the game after he was arrested for stock theft on Monday – the latest setback in Popa’s stuttering season.
Orapa will be hoping to provide yet another bump on Saturday.