Fixing the wrongs at Usuthu

A little over three weeks ago, AmaZulu were sitting pretty, joint-top of the Absa Premiership table and those associated with the club could have even been forgiven for dreaming about the highs they could soar come May next year.

The Durban club were out of the blocks as quickly as anyone, winning three out of their opening six games in what was one of their best-ever starts to a season.

But a top-of-the-table clash against Mamelodi Sundowns on October 22 changed everything. Usuthu were on the wrong end of the outstanding result of the campaign to date, suffering a humiliating 7-1 loss at Loftus Stadium in Pretoria.

Their defence looked particularly shaky against the Brazilians, who clicked nicely into gear and have since opened a seven point gap between the sides to sit alone at the summit, while AmaZulu still appear to be licking their wounds three games later.

Coach Craig Rosslee admits that pressure may be getting to his players, who were beaten 2-0 by Maritzburg United and drew against Polokwane City and Bloemfontein Celtic, both by 1-1 scorelines, in their last three outings.

"The route to our problems have been starting further up the field," the coach said in defence of his backline. "(Against Sundowns) we game the ball away cheaply in and around the 18 area.

"Everyone has to take responsibility for that loss.

"It has been encouraging in our last two games, against two physical and hard-working teams in Polokwane City and Bloemfontein Celtic, that we ourselves are able to work hard and to mix it up. That attitude is good for me at this point in time."

Prior to what can be defined as a season-changing result, all looked well in terms of the dynamics of the team.

But their backline is a far different picture now, while the quality of forwards Bongani Ndulula, Sthembiso Ngcobo and Ayanda Dlamini have also come under the spotlight.

At the back captain and goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini has since lost his place to Aubrey Mathibe, Larry Horaeb has been absent through injury and no other defender has started in all three games.

"We don’t have that composure or we do have it, but at this point in time, we don’t have it because there's pressure," Rosslee said. "There's pressure to perform, to get results and there's pressure in that final third.

"I think the service is there, we're getting some fantastic balls into the box. But you can train it, you can work on it and it also comes down to some intelligence, knowing when to come in and out of the box.

"When the pressure is on, you're so over-eager that sometimes you over-run the ball. You're so in a hurry and what you're doing is you end up forcing it."

But Rosslee has full confidence in his seventh-placed side, insisting they can turn it around.

"We have what we have, I think we have a fantastic squad of players," he added. "We have a small squad and we need to work with what we have.

"There are three quality strikers here and they have to come to the party. I'm sure it's a matter of time."