Royal AM made to wait after Sekhukhune victory‚ Richards Bay tumble out of contention
The race for automatic promotion to the Premiership was narrowed down to leading Royal AM and second-placed Sekhukhune United after long-time leaders Richards Bay tumbled down to fourth.
Bay are now even in danger of missing out on a playoff spot.
Royal AM went into their GladAfrica Championship penultimate match ready to pop the champagne‚ but it would have to remain on ice for the last round of fixtures.
Despite a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at University of Pretoria on Sunday‚ which took them to 50 points‚ Royal AM were made to wait for another week to celebrate after Bay drew against Jomo Cosmos to fall out of contention.
Sekhukhune United won at home against Polokwane City to climb into second place.
Royal AM went into the match at the Tuks Stadium perched at the top of the log and needed to win to be crowned champions, while hoping Bay and Sekhukhune lost.
With a match to play‚ Royal AM lead by three points as the chase for automatic promotion was narrowed down to between them and Sekhukhune.
The only way the Pietermaritzburg-based side can bottle this is if they lose at home against Cape Town All Stars on Sunday and second-placed Sekhukhune beat JDR Stars in Soshanguve to match them on 50 points‚ but Sekhukhune would be crowned champions due to their superior goal difference.
But a draw against the Cape strugglers will be enough for Royal AM to win automatic promotion and take their place in the lucrative DStv Premiership next season.
TS Sporting replaced Bay in third place after a 1-0 win over Uthongathi in Kabokweni and will guarantee their spot in the playoffs if they beat Pretoria Callies.
A playoff spot for Sporting will come at the expense of long-time leaders Bay‚ whose inferior goal difference would see them remain fourth behind Sporting even if they beat strugglers Steenberg United.
Free State Stars and JDR Stars are in fifth and sixth spots respectively, both on 44 points.
One of them can qualify for the playoffs with a win over Polokwane and Sekhukhune if fourth placed Bay and third placed Sporting fail to win.
At the bottom‚ 15th placed Cape Town Spurs [formerly Ajax Cape Town] will be relegated regardless of their result against University of Pretoria at home, if 14th-placed Steenberg beat Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.
Steenberg will be relegated if they fail to win and Spurs beat or draw against University of Pretoria.
Bizana Pondo Chiefs are already relegated going into their final match as a fully-fledged professional outfit away against Uthongathi.
Last season’s Premiership campaigners Polokwane City survived relegation danger by a whisker, as they are just four points from safety‚ but they will welcome Free State Stars knowing even a defeat will still see them safe.