OVER the course of the season, Ajax Cape Town’s objectives have followed the club’s slide down the Premiership table.
At his first press conference as head coach of the Urban Warriors, Maarten Stekelenburg insisted that they were gunning for the title after coming so close on the final day of the previous campaign under Foppe de Haan’s guidance.
A few weeks ago, the coach said a top-four finish would be sufficient, but after a couple of indifferent results, the focus has now shifted to a top-eight finish and a spot in the 2012-13 season-opening MTN8 tournament.
The season promised so much for Ajax, but a disastrous second half has seen them struggle to keep pace with the leaders. Inconsistency on attack and defence has been the squad’s biggest problem, while indiscipline on the field has also been a contributing factor to their downfall.
And tonight, at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane, Ajax face a Kaizer Chiefs team that find themselves in a similar position, although Amakhosi should easily finish among the eight top teams in the country this season.
But a club of their stature, pedigree and support must still view this season as another failure, especially as their fierce rivals, Orlando Pirates, are the favourites to clinch back-to-back titles next weekend.
Stekelenburg’s team still need to face Golden Arrows at home and Black Leopards away to complete their league programme. Injuries at crucial times have also been a problem that has constantly robbed Ajax of momentum during the season. Never mind the suspensions, as six red cards and a plethora of yellow cards have been too many for a team hoping to compete for honours.
Tonight, Ajax will welcome Zimbabwean flyer Khama Billiat back after he served a two-match ban for an utterly stupid sending-off against SuperSport United. He missed the home draw against Pirates and the 4-2 defeat against Bloemfontein Celtic at the Free State Stadium.
Captain Granwald Scott is also expected to be in the team after an injury kept him out of the trip to Bloemfontein. Centre back Nazeer Allie, though, is only expected to be fit for Saturday’s clash against Arrows at Cape Town Stadium.
“The game could be too soon for Nazeer,” Stekelenburg said. “Khama Billiat is back, and we missed his pace upfront, as well as the variation he gives us on attack. I’m happy he is back.”