CHICKEN Inn FC have positioned themselves well for the championship battle after leaping to second position on the Castle Lager Premiership table after last weekend’s fixtures.
This was after a hard fought 2-1 victory over Shabanie Mine at Maglas Stadium on Sunday.
The Gamecocks made sure that it’s game on when the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League second round resumes next week as they are joint leaders with Highlanders on 29 points after 15 matches.
However, Chicken Inn are second on the log due to an inferior goal difference.
While Bulawayo giants Highlanders lost grip as the race got tight losing to 1-2 in Harare to Caps United, city neighbours Chicken Inn made sure that they end their first half of the season with the championship within their sight with an exquisite performance at Maglas Stadium on Sunday.
The Gamecocks, under the guidance of Mandla ‘Lulu’ Mpofu and new arrival Mkhuphali Masuku, earned themselves a good six points, claiming the scalp of Highlanders last Wednesday with a crack match winner by Kudakwashe Mahachi.
They appear to have struck the right key at the right time and cannot be ignored in the title race as they have shown their pedigree taking their league unbeaten run to seven matches.
Their last defeat was away to Harare City in May where they fell 1-2.
The Gamecocks started their campaign on a good note winning the season’s opener – NetOne Charity Shield and in the process became championship favourites.
However, they were inconsistent in their campaign and keeping Mpofu in his job could have been just the right formula.
Chicken Inn went on to show that their victory against Bosso was not a fluke as they collected maximum points at Shabanie Mine.
Despite seeing his team moving up the log to second place, Chicken Inn’s gaffer remains modest and believes that there is room for improvement in his squad.
“Obviously every team in the league wants to lift the championship and we are not different from them,” said Mpofu.
“The only difference is that we are not really worried about the championship because our core objective is to maintain a top four finish and the title will be a bonus. We have also set a target of winning a major cup after the NetOne Charity Shield.”Advertisement
“At this stage we can’t afford to relax hence we need to remain focused. As a club we are not surprised with where we are because we are in the league to compete with the big boys and we are doing just that.
“What has made us to be up there is that we have shown character, managing to turn our grey patches into our strengths. We lost matches we should have won but that is history and we are going to fight to the very last whistle.”
The former Kujatana and Railstars coach was full of praises for his charges for managing to keep their championship hopes alive.
One of the outstanding players who has made Mpofu’s job even more secure is striker Tendai ‘Fire’ Ndoro. Ndoro is the league’s top marksman with 10 goals and at the moment, seems unstoppable and his performance has earned him a place in Zimbabwe’s Cosafa squad.
In defence, Chicken Inn has had to rely on Guide Goddard, skipper Felix ‘Basic Finest’ Chindungwe who like wine has matured with age, Brian Mbiriri, Moses Jackson, Tonisani Sibelo and Zephaniah Ngodzo.
Danny ‘Deco’ Phiri has been outstanding in the midfield making sure that he provides cover for the central defenders as a defensive midfielder and equally good when going forward.
Overall, Chicken Inn assembled one of the strongest squads at the beginning of the year capable of withstanding any club and they have shown just that.
They have surpassed their last season’s mark where by this time of the year they were in position five with 26 points, seven points behind log leaders Highlanders.
At this stage last season, Dynamos who won the title was second on the log, with 30 points while Highlanders was on top with 33.
DeMbare went on to beat Bosso to the title with a superior goal difference at the end of the season after both clubs finished with 69 points.
Chicken Inn can hope to achieve the same feat as they are lethal upfront and with the coming in of Masuku to their technical department, the Gamecocks’ bench has a wealth of experience.
“Everything we do is about teamwork and I am fortunate to have a good pool of players, an understanding technical department as well as a supportive executive. Like I said before, we share the same vision and that takes off pressure.
“The second half will really be tough but I am sure we learnt a lot from the matches we played in the first half. It is now up to us to improve from where we are and I think from now onwards we will be the team to beat so we have to be prepared for that,” Mpofu said.
Soccer enthusiasts should expect an exhilarating second half of the season as the championship battle rages on.
Caps United 2-1 Highlanders 1; FC Platinum 1-0 Black Rhinos; Tripple B 4-2 Buffaloes; Hwange 4-1 Harare City; Dynamos 3-0 How Mine; Triangle United 1-0 Black Mambas; Chicken Inn 2-1 Shabanie Mine; Monomotapa 2-1 Motor Action