Orlando Pirates' coach Eric Tinkler insists he hasn't lost dressing room
Orlando Pirates’ stirring fight-backs in recent matches have coach Eric Tinkler convinced that his team remain firmly behind him‚ the coach said ahead of his side’s Absa Premiership fixture against Ajax Cape Town at Orlando Stadium on Wednesday.
Endless chopping and changing of lineups‚ and players being utilised out of position often do not go down well among players at a big club like Bucs.
Along with Pirates’ unconvincing form‚ still unable to lift themselves from 12th despite a chance to recover from their run to the Caf Confederation Cup final in the Christmas break‚ this has raised question marks over the Bucs players’ continued loyalty to Tinkler.
The coach pointed to another fight-back — this time from 1-0 down in the Soweto derby against Kaizer Chiefs thanks to Thamsanqa Gabuza’s 69th-minute headed strike — as evidence that he still holds his change room.
Bucs’ previous notable comeback was their 3-3 draw‚ recovering from 3-0 down‚ against Maritzburg United away on January 16.
“Definitely‚ otherwise we wouldn’t have had the reaction we had against Chiefs or against Maritzburg‚” Tinkler responded after the derby to a question on whether he has the backing of his players.
“I know I have their backing‚ because I’m in constant conversation with them and they’re in constant conversation with me.
“The support is there from both sides. And we don’t have that situation [of players undermining a coach].”
Pirates’ defence has been particularly disrupted by changes — some enforced — in the past three matches.
In their 1-0 defeat against Jomo Cosmos in Potchefstroom two weeks ago‚ Thabo Matlaba was switched from left to right back‚ and Ayanda Gcaba from the middle to the left‚ due to the suspension of Ntsikelelo Nyauza.
Despite Nyauza’s return‚ Matlaba was left on the right for the derby‚ and Edwin Gyimah came in for Tshepo Gumede in the middle in yet another change.
Tinkler professed himself pleased at his defence’s performance against Chiefs‚ so might do well to keep them together on Wednesday night.
“Personally‚ I thought our back four did exceptionally well against Chiefs. We conceded but sometimes you can’t always put the blame on the defence‚” Tinkler said.
His counterpart on Wednesday night is the coach he was long-time assistant to at Bidvest Wits and Pirates‚ Ajax coach Roger de Sa.
Ajax notched a second win of 2016‚ 2-0 at home to Golden Arrows on Friday.
The Urban Warriors lost 3-1 away against Chippa United in their previous game‚ which followed a 2-1 home victory against Jomo Cosmos that halted a slide of 10 matches without a win.
“It was good for us to get three points against Arrows‚ playing at home gave us a bit of a lift again. But the performance wasn’t what we expected‚” De Sa said.
“We missed some opportunities we should have scored‚ but at the end of the day we saw out the result.
“We’ll work on it and have another go against Pirates.
“We get Travis Graham back [from suspension]. Hopefully Pirates will come into the match a little tired from the derby‚ which will give us a chance to go at them a bit more.”
Also on Wednesday night‚ Wits host Platinum Stars at Bidvest Stadium wanting to bounce back from their fourth defeat of the season‚ 2-1 away to Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday.
Gavin Hunt’s Clever Boys slipped to third place as Celtic notched their first win under Serame Letsoaka‚ and first in nine matches.
Platinum beat Pretoria University 2-0 in Rustenburg.