THERE is likely to be little home comforts for Joey Antipas when he takes charge of his Chicken Inn side in front of their own fans against championship dark horses FC Platinum at Luveve Stadium on Sunday.
If he were given to candour before crucial games, the new Chicken Inn boss would admit that this is not the sort of a fixture any new coach would have picked while still trying to settle down in the job.
Antipas joined the Gamecocks last week, a day after Mandla “Lulu” Mpofu resigned from the Chicken Inn hot seat and the new coach started his reign commendably with a point away to Monomotapa in his first game in charge.
Chicken Inn sit somewhat uneasily in seventh on the table with 36 points and need all three points against FC Platinum to ensure their survival from the dreaded chop.
The ambitious Bulawayo outfit has not had a good second half of the season only managing eight points from a possible 33, losing five times, winning once against Black Rhinos and playing to five draws.
On the other hand, their weekend opponents have been silently picking up points, making sure that they keep up with the title chasing group of Dynamos, Harare City and Highlanders.
FC Platinum are just three points behind leaders Dynamos with 45 points with 19 of those picked in 11 matches played in the second half of the season.
The Zvishavane club have won six, lost four with their only draw coming against Caps United.
In an interview Thursday, Antipas said he was looking forward to his first home game and is confident that they will get the maximum points against the visitors.
“I am looking forward to posting a good result in my first match at home and the guys are also looking forward to the game,” he said.
“I am still settling but that is not an excuse. FC Platinum are a good side, they have quality players and are doing well in the league but we are going to give them a good run for their money.
“I also have quality players in my squad and I have faith in these boys. It will be a tight game but hopefully an interesting one.”
Chicken Inn have a clean bill of health with the league’s leading goal scorer, Tendai Ndoro, with 15 goals expected to lead their forward line.
Ndoro is on loan from Mpumalanga Black Aces of South Africa and has set himself a target of 20 goals for the season.
Antipas can also count on former national Under-23 goalkeeper Liberty Chirava who played ahead of seasoned Njabulo Nyoni against Monomotapa last week, defenders Felix Chindungwe, Moses Jackson, Zephaniah Ngodzo, Tonisani Sibelo, Brian Mbiriri and Charles Mutero.Advertisement
Mutero is part of the three former Motor Action players that have re-united with Antipas at Chicken Inn. Clemence Matawu and Dylan Chivandire played under Antipas in the first half of the season at the Mighty Bulls, who have already been relegated.
Matawu has been doing well in the midfield where he is ably complemented by Danny Phiri, Kudakwashe Mahach, who is attending a week-long trial, at Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, Canaan Nkomo, Brian Juru and Thabani Goredema.
Ndoro is competing with veterans Mkhokheli Dube and Chivandire, Thomas Chimenya, Tendai Mukambi and Lenience Mpofu for a starting place.
FC Platinum coach Lloyd Mutasa is aware of the quality at Chicken Inn but is not worried as he believes that his boys can stand up to their opponents.
Mutasa admitted that the championship is no longer in their hands but remains hopeful that if they win their games, they may have a slight chance in the event that the top three teams drop points.
“I have said it before and I am saying it again, the championship is no longer in our hands but it depends on how other teams play,” he said.
“What we have to do is to collect as many points as possible and wait for the season to end to see where we will be.
“Competition is getting tougher as the season draws to the end and we know that every game is always tricky but we are prepared to play and get positive results.”
He said besides Ali Sadiki who has been ruled out for the remainder of the season due to an ankle injury, Raymond Sibanda is the only player who is recovering from the sidelines.
FC Platinum’s preparations for their Sunday match have been boosted by the availability of Donald Ngoma who has fully recovered from an injury.
The platinum miners can also call on Soccer Star of the Year contender Charles Sibanda, Thabani Kamusoko, young Raphael Muduviwa, the Moyo twins Elvis and Kevin, Aaron Katebe and his Zambian compatriot Obrey Chirwa and Mitchell Katsvairo.
In other matches, How Mine takes on Hwange at Luveve Stadium tomorrow while Black Mambas and Monomotapa face each other in another survival battle.
Saturday: How Mine v Hwange (Luveve), Black Mambas v Monomotapa (Morris Depot), Shabanie Mine v Tripple B (Maglas)
Sunday: Triangle United v Dynamos (Gibbo), Chicken Inn v FC Platinum (Luveve), Black Rhinos v Harare City (Rimuka), Motor Action v Highlanders (Rufaro), Buffaloes v Caps United (Sakubva)