Stellenbosch Football Club

Barker: It’s a good point away from home

Football Dstv Premiership 2023/24 Supersport United Fc V Stellenbosch Fc Lucas Moripe Stadium

Stellenbosch FC head coach Steve Barker was pleased to take a hard-earned point back home from his side’s 1-1 DStv Premiership draw against SuperSport United on Friday evening.

The Maroons walked away with the share of the spoils at the Lucas Masterpieces Moripe Stadium on Friday after goals from Bradley Grobler and Stellies’ Iqraam Rayners saw the two sides level-pegging at the time of the final whistle.

Despite not picking up the desired three points, head coach Steve Barker was nonetheless pleased with his side’s performance on the night and for the consolation that they did not leave Pretoria empty handed.

“When you’ve had a long break, playing that first game is never easy physically or with the sharpness, so I always thought it would be a tough game against SuperSport United,” Barker said.

“We decided to sacrifice a bit in the way we normally play because they’re really good in their pressing and can force you into making errors if you try and get too clever.  That meant we played a bit longer than we would have hoped, whereas we would have liked to have turned the defence and gotten the ball in behind them.

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“The first 10-20 minutes were pretty even and then they got a bit of joy with [Grant] Margeman, [Siphesihle] Ndlovu, and [Ghampani] Lungu enjoying too much time on the ball.

“With the goal that they then scored, which I thought was a great cross and great header, we should have been closer to [Shandre] Campbell because we know his quality in crossing and it was an area that we had spoken about before the game.

“That was then a bit disappointing to have allowed the cross in and for Bradley Grobler to have scored the goal, but then in the second half I thought we came out a lot fresher and sharper.

“We put them under a bit more pressure which resulted in a throw in from which we scored a bit of a scruffy goal, but sometimes you have to keep working hard and then get these scrappy goals that put you right back in the game.

“From there, in the last 20 or 25 minutes, it wasn’t the best game to watch from a spectator point of view. They threw on Etiosa Ighodaro, who is a big lad, while Grobler was still on and played quite direct.

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“We were at times to deep and they were picking up the second ball which caused us a little bit of a problem, but we always looked threatening from the counter-attacking situations.

“All-in-all, they’re a tough team to play away from home and we had to fight hard, but I think it’s great point for us and extends our run to eight games unbeaten in the league, with six wins and two draws. Against SuperSport United, away from home, you’ve got to take that point.

“Now when we get back home, our next league match is against Chippa United, and we’ve got to make sure that we take maximum points.”

Just two points separate third-placed SuperSport United from Stellenbosch FC, who have a game in hand, in the league standings, meaning much was on the line in terms of the race for continental qualification ahead of the encounter.

“This was almost a six-pointer. If we lost this game they would have had a six point gap and you don’t easily close a six-point gap against a team like SuperSport United,” Barker added. “Staying in touch by getting that point and not allowing them to get away was important for us.

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“…It is a very tight league, there are a number of teams that could finish in those top spots. You have Kaizer Chiefs, Orlando Pirates, SuperSport United, Cape Town City, AmaZulu – you can name a number of them.

“The second half of the season is always tough because everybody is fighting for something, whether they’re avoiding relegation or trying to finish top-eight or top-four.

“It’s going to be a tough road ahead but we’ve already travelled quite a lot so we have a number of home games to look forward to. Hopefully, we can start capitalising on those home games, but we have to stay focussed, determined, and stick to what we do well without becoming complacent.”