ZPC accept title darkhorse tag

HARARE - Halfway through the season, 16 games unbeaten, Castle Premiership debutants ZPC Kariba have refused to be modest and embraced the tag of serious title challengers.

ZPC manager Partson Ndabambi this week says his team gladly “accept the tag” of title darkhorses following their impressive debut season in the top-flight.

The debutants are the only undefeated team in Zimbabwe’s top-flight league at this stage, prompting followers of the league to label them serious title contenders.

“Obviously they are looking at the position we are, us being a team that was not expected to be where we are, and then playing the kind of football we are playing, we accept the tag,” Ndabambi told the Daily News last weekend after ZPC extended their run with an impressive 1-0 win away to Chicken Inn in Bulawayo.

Ndabambi, who has PSL coaching experience with Shooting Stars and Gunners, says lack of expectation in a season that even hung in the balance at the beginning for the Zimbabwe Power Company-sponsored outfit has significantly taken pressure off the player, making them a dangerous darkhorse in the title race.

“I think now we don’t playing under pressure anymore after that run, players are enjoying their game and that makes us tricky opponents,” said Ndabambi.

Indeed, time has come for everyone to take novices seriously.

ZPC, who are in second place on the log and only one point behind leaders Highlanders, have won seven and draw nine of their 16 matches.

The achievement is no fluke, considering at this stage of the season all the teams have played against each other.

There is also no talk of the fixture favouring the Kariba-based side as well.

In their first two matches in the league, ZPC had to play against CAPS United and Dynamos.

The league newcomers emerged unscathed with a 1-1 draw with Makepekepe and a shock 1-0 win over the defending champions.

Since then, Saul Chaminuka’s men have grown from strength to strength and the closest they came to a defeat was the 2-2 draw against last season’s Mbada Diamonds Cup runners-up How Mine at Gwanzura Stadium in May.

ZPC were trailing the gold miners 0-2 with two minutes to go but they were able to rally from behind courtesy of two goals from Raphael Manuvira and Trevor Chikede.

After those early positive results, a lot of people thought they lose steam at some stage.

ZPC have, however, stubbornly refused to be blown away easily and with the looks of things, they will have a strong say in the destiny of the 2014 Castle Premiership title.

This is all difficult to comprehend considering that ZPC had a nightmarish pre-season ahead of their first season in the top flight.

First, the club parted ways with coach Jostein Mathuthu, who had won them promotion from division one in 2013.

They then appointed former CAPS United assistant coach Chaminuka.

Chaminuka began his reign at the club by releasing at least 20 players.

This move did not go down well with people in Kariba. Many pointed out to the fact that most teams that had made wholesale changes upon promotion were quickly relegated to the lower divisions.

The Premier Soccer League also barred the club from using their Nyamhunga Stadium as it was still undergoing renovations.

This forced ZPC to relocate to Gwanzura Stadium, where they have played most of their home matches this season.

Their participation in the league was also confirmed at the 11th hour after Energy Minister Dzikamai Mavhaire threatened to pull the plug on sponsorship.

The club did not let all these distractions get the better of them when the season eventfully started.  

On the pitch, ZPC have not been one of the most entertaining teams in the league but Chaminuka has drilled them into an effective side.

With only 18 goals to their credit, they do not score that many but their foundation had been their solid defence.

Ephraim Mwinga and Dennis Dauda are probably the best central defensive pairing in the land at the moment as they have only let in seven goals thus far.

Captain and goalkeeper Tendai Hove is perhaps the best player in his position in the division.

Chaminuka’s main focus this season has been the goal to avoid relegation.

“We need to remain focused, our aim is to avoid relegation this season and even to finish in the top four but we don’t need to put ourselves under unnecessary pressure,” has been Chaminuka’s mantra in all interviews he has done.

Game by game, they have remained in the top echelons of domestic football. This afternoon they come across a Hwange side that has only won once in five matches.

After already beating the coalminers 1-0 at the Colliery last month, it will not be a surprise if ZPC stretch that unbeaten run to 17 matches this afternoon.

Today: ZPC Kariba v Hwange (Gwanzura, SS9), FC Platinum v Chapungu (Mandava).

Tomorrow: Highlanders v How Mine (Barbourfields), Buffaloes v Shabanie Mine (Sakubva), Caps United v Chicken Inn (National Sports Stadium, SS9), Black Rhinos v Dynamos (Rimuka), Triangle v Bantu Rovers (Gibbo).

Comments (2)

I personally don't that ZPC will go all the to the wire. We've seen this before, yes off course credit to them so far. But what it simply means is that the second half of the season separate boys from men. I foresee a situation whereby they will begin to receive their portion of successive defeats. Looking at the current teams in the top five, ZPC will soon find it difficult, whether by hook or crook but that is the case.

Regalia - 2 August 2014

They have survived relegation.

Ndini uya - 4 August 2014

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