PSL preview no1: Will How Mine last the distance?

BULAWAYO - How Mine have enjoyed a great start to the year by progressing to the final qualifying round of the African Confederation Cup.

Chikurupati head coach Philani “Beefy” Ncube will this season have to back up his brash talk by challenging for honours in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.

A gold mine of sound bites for football journalists, the outspoken former Coach of the Year has already begun the year on a positive note by leading his charges into the second round of the African Confederation Cup tournament.

STRONG SQUAD: How Mine have assembled a strong squad for the 2014 season that they hope will help them reach the African Confederation Cup group stages.

But How Mine’s African expedition is more of a learning process than a hunt for glory and it is in the domestic league that the former Pigott Maskew, Njube Sundowns and Chicken Inn coach will be expected to prove that last season’s exploits when his team prevailed over the country’s big guns were no fluke.

The gold miners brought in a number of new faces to their setup and that their signings were good business can be seen in their progress in continental competition where their new striker Kuda Musharu has scored six times in four outings.

It is Musharu’s goals that ensured How Mine’s passage into the second round of the African Confederation Cup competition after the former Monomotapa and Motor Action man banged in two goals in their 5-1 first leg victory over St Michel of Seychelles before weighing in with a crucial away goal when the gold miners were trailing 3-0 in the reverse fixture.

Other key signings that have already made an impact for Chikurupati include young striker Emmanuel Mandiranga and attacking linkman Edmore Muzahenhamo.

Former Aces Academy player Mandiranga has played the role of supporting striker to perfection while ex Sparrows and Ntabazinduna man Muzanenhamo is proof that there is a lot of talent in the lower echelons of local football.

A young brother to former Highlanders midfielder Godfrey, Muzanenhamo has taken to the play maker role at Chikurupati like a fish to water and indications are that his combination with the likes of Thembani “Smaller” Masuku and Warren Dube will trouble many opponents this season.

Last season, How Mine earned notoriety for their alleged use of Juju but while there is no consensus on the effectiveness of Juju as a means of getting good results, the Chikurupati technical team has proven to be very good readers of the game in the few matches that the team has played so far this year.

Football pundits maintain that the second half of a football game is to the coach what a canvas is to an artist as this is his time to conjure up a match winning tactical masterpiece.

And Ncube together with his lieutenants Simba Rusike and Isheunesu Chaka have not disappointed in that regard so far this season.

How Mine were sluggish in the first half against Zanzibar outfit Chuoni Football Club in the preliminary round first leg encounter at Barbourfields Stadium and only managed to go to the break leading by a solitary goal.

After the break the gold miners’ technical team rang the changes and the substitutions bore fruit as they were able to bang in three more goals in the second half to emerge 4-0 winners.

And again in the first round, first leg encounter against Seychelles’ St Michel, Chikurupati were poor in the first half and went into half time tied 1-1 with the visitors but some astute tactical changes in the second half turned things around for them and they went on to win the match 5-1.

This apparently sound tactical expertise on the bench and the depth that is now in the Chikurupati playing ranks could see the gold miners challenging the country’s big guns for honours in the Castle Lager Premiership this season.

And judging from the goal scoring form they have exhibited in continental club competition, How Mine deserve to be counted among the championship hopefuls this season especially when taking into consideration the mixture of experience and youth in their squad.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Kuda Musharu has been scoring for fun in African Confederation Cup for his new club How Mine.

Experienced new signings include the likes of former Dynamos players Wonder Sithole and George Magariro, ex CAPS United midfielder Marvel Samaneka and former Motor Action man Blessing Sande.

Other players that joined How Mine this season include former Chicken Inn, Motor Action and Dynamos defender Morris Kadzola, former Gunners left linkman James Chitereki and Young Warriors and former Aces Academy keeper Donovan Bernard.

Bernard in particular was a wise buy for the gold miners as the goalkeeping department was their Achilles heel especially in the first half of last season when current third choice keeper Nonjabulo Notice Dube and Pedzisai Gumiremhete alternated between the sticks.

A lot though will depend on How Mine’s progress in the African Confederation Cup tournament where they will clash with Bayelsa United of Nigeria in the second round of the competition.

Chikurupati are already way ahead of most of their local counterparts in terms of match fitness and that could work in their favour when the local season gets underway.

But further progress in the competition could become taxing with all the travel that comes with it and their challenge on the domestic front could suffer as a result.

How Mine will open their domestic campaign with a tricky home match against champions Dynamos before squaring up against top – flight returnees Bantu Rovers in Week 2 of Castle Premiership action.

Daily News' predicted position: 4th

Last season's position: 11th

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