Leopards bid farewell to Absa Premiership

Black Leopards said its final goodbyes to the Absa Premiership this week as the club prepared for life in the National First Division (NFD) following the worst defensive record by a club in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) era.

Lidoda Duvha lost their final match of the campaign 3-2 against Free State Stars in Bethlehem on Saturday to seal their fate.

Goals number 61, 62 and 63 conceded giving them an unwanted record as they surpassed previous 'Goals Against' marks set by Manning Rangers (62) in 2002-03 and Zulu Royals (61) a season later in the 16-team Premiership format.

That record ultimately proved too much as the men from Limpopo bid a disappointing farewell after a two-season stay in the top flight.

In truth, their demotion had been looming large in the weeks prior to the trip to Goble Park.

They had lost four matches in succession and conceded a hefty 16 goals along the way, the form that no team, especially one struggling, wants to flirt with so late in a season.

Last season was an extremely positive one for Leopards considering they managed to stay up upon their return to the Premiership for the first time in three years.

They finished in 14th place, narrowly ahead of relegated Jomos Cosmos and Santos, who went down through the play-offs.

Under then coach Sunday Chidzambwa, they started 2012-13 with a bang, losing just once in their first eight games to sit 11th by the end of October.

Even a switch to management in the form of redeploying their Malawian coach as a technical director and replacing him with Ian Palmer did not appear a too bad call when they climbed to ninth by the end of November with a pair of wins and losses from their four games.

That was their most successful period, although defence was already a growing concern at that stage already with 19 conceded in the 12 games.

Leopards failed to win in the four remaining fixtures of 2012, but still ended the year encouragingly in 12th place, although more instability followed at the club around Christmas when Palmer also left, leading to the appointment of Abel Makhubele as caretaker coach.

Unfortunately, the new man lost his first four games in charge when the league resumed in January, a run of form that appeared to knock the stuffing out of the squad.

They managed just two more wins over the remainder of the season, before ending a forgettable campaign with 23 points from 30 games and an overall goal-difference of -29, which was due to their free-scoring nature - along with Ajax Cape Town, their 34 goals was the highest amongst the bottom seven teams.

Speaking after their loss in the Free State, Chidzambwa summed up their season by saying: "Our defence needs urgent attention and the high number of goals conceded reflects our weakness.

"A team's relegation is like a funeral throughout the world. Leopards' relegation leaves me with a big disappointment. But we have to regroup and fight to regain Premiership status next season. I'm positive we are going to return."