All eyes on the league title

Fish Hoek FC's Robin Terry, right, tussles for the ball with Ajax Cape Town's Litha Dakusa.

Despite being eliminated in the group stage of the under-17 Engen Knockout Challenge, Fish Hoek FC still has everything to play for in the Cape Town Tygerberg Football Association (CTTFA)Super League.

Dubbed as the group of death, Fish Hoek was drawn into Group B alongside league rivals Ajax Cape Town.

Also in their group were Hellenic from Milnerton and Grassy Park United.

Head coach Jean Pierre Farrugia said they underestimated Grassy Park United which hampered their progress to the quarter-finals. But, they are still in contention for the league title and Knockout Cup in the CTTFA Super League.

Fish Hoek FC had a tall order from the get go and opened up their Knockout Challenge campaign against the last year’s champions and current Super League log leaders, Ajax Cape Town.

Farrugia said he prepared his team well for the ball playing side and scored a point in their goalless draw.

“We had a great game against Ajax and were really pleased with the performance of the players – it’s always difficult going up against the defending champions.

“It was intimidating to the boys but they went out in front of the crowed and held their own,” said Farrugia.

“We rolled our luck a few times and had some good chances to score but didn’t take it. I think a draw was a sufficient result for an opening game against such a tough squad.

“We often don’t do too well against Ajax in the league because the players are always a bit nervous. But, this time they were more relaxed and we changed things up because Ajax tend to block us well,” he said.

Fish Hoek were dealt a few setbacks as one of the central defenders had to leave immediately after the Ajax match, and had to join the South African under-17 training squad, in Johannesburg. And, their other centre-back broke his wrist a week before the tournament.

“It’s been tough with preparations. We’ve had to sacrifice two of our starting players. That didn’t leave a gap, but obviously it affects the side.

“In the second game we got caught off guard with Grassy Park’s intensity. They came out firing and really pumped up, and they got the early goal,” said Farrugia.

“Our preparations for the tournament will not go to waste. Only losing one match, there’s a lot of positives which will propel us to the top of the league table.

“Ajax and Mutual are both in our league. Ajax are top of the log and Mutual sneaked in at second spot.

“Old Mutual Academy are only three points above us, but we have three games in hand.

“With two trophies still to play for, it’s possible we can still get one over both of them,” said Farrugia.

“Their goal came from a goal-kick. It was a long ball booted up front, a turn and shot at goal.

“We picked it up in the second half, dominated and came back with a goal but just couldn’t get the winner which cost us in the end.

“We made three changes from the Ajax game to rest some players against Grassy Park, hoping that we could do enough to beat them, in preparation for the Hellenic clash.

“We always knew that Ajax and Hellenic were going to be the tough ones who stood the best chance of progressing.

“We knew Ajax would make us work a lot harder,” he said.

Their plan backfired. They lost the momentum gained from the Ajax match and were beaten 2-0 by Hellenic in their final group game.

On Sunday, Fish Hoek played for a position 9-12 playoff spot against Jordan Callies and Greenwood Athletic, which they won 3-0 respectively.

“We started off pretty well against Hellenic but I think the boys were just not up for the physical fight after our two opening games. We got caught with two defensive errors, and, this being a top tournament we were punished for that,” he said.

“We took a break in the first week of the school holidays and trained five days a week when the boys got back.

“We disappointed that we didn’t get into the quarter-finals at least, because the boys really put in a lot. But, we will now focus our energy in winning the league and knockout cup,” said Farrugia.

“We still have to face both of them, and if we don’t loose a game then we can definitely win the league title,” he said.

Trio Brandon Williams, Luke Fleurs and Taariq Ganga, who were called up for the SA under-17 training camp earlier this month, will need to share their experience with the rest of the team and nudge them across the finish line in the title race.

“I’d like to say the team looked more confident with them being back but I think the guys were quite relaxed and didn’t take things in their stride.

“It was a great opportunity they got and I hope they can bring a sense of confidence back into the team going forward,” said Farrugia.

“This weekend we play Atlantic Nacional in the league.

“But, it’s always difficult the week after a tournament because the players need to rest and you can’t train too much.

“Our challenge now is to shift their focus and challenge for something at the end of the season,” he said.