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Preview - Moroka Swallows v Ajax CT


It's the midway point in the Castle Premiership championship battle and already the likely candidates are beginning to emerge.

There is no doubt - after a breathtaking display of attacking football that has left the country in an awe and gasping for more - that it is Mamelodi Sundowns who hold sway in the race as the season moves past the halfway mark.

But they will know, as does everyone else, that their chances of defending their Castle Premiership title are far from secured.

Waiting in the wings are the likes of SuperSport United and Kaizer Chiefs, but it is the young marauders Ajax Cape Town, whose football fairytale story continues to surprise all and sundry, that look set to give Sundowns a run for their money and judging by their awesome performance this season, Muhsin Ertugral's boys are the darkhorses to clinch the prestigious title come May 19, 2007.

Of course, there are differing thoughts as to how the league title will pan out and with the clock going anti-clockwise, expect the log leaders Ajax, who visit Moroka Swallows in a Castle Premiership match at Germiston Stadium on Sunday (kick-off 3.45pm), to prove once again that their lofty spot is not a fleeting illusion.

"One group says it is the big teams who will continue to dominate and the other believes that the gap between the top clubs and those in the middle is closing. In my personal opinion, I will go with the latter," said streetwise Ajax coach Muhsin Ertugral.

"United have shown the steel and never-say-die attitude and occupying a second spot, on 32 points, one adrift of us, the gap is closing. These so-called average teams are not easy to beat. Just look at the top eight bracket and you will notice that the so-called small teams are the most dangerous."

He added: "By contrast, Sundowns are likely to be distracted by their campaign in the continental competition if they advance to the second round this weekend. We are taking it one game at the time and it could be wrong not to give these youngsters a credit.

"They have proven without raising an eyelid that they compete with the best and for a team renowned for struggling in the past three or so seasons, this is an achievement. But with 10 games to play for, anything can happen and it is important to remain level-headed and hope for the best.

"Swallows beat us in the first round and it is payback time. They consist of resolute players whose experience is unmatched compared to the 'chickens' at my disposal.

"One player who always stand out for them is their attacking midfielder Lefa Tsutsulupa who killed us with his thunderbolt shot at home and I will instruct Clifford Ngobeni, whose maturity belies his tender age, to throttle him out of the game."

Ertugral concluded: "A win will take us a step closer to our dream - but I respect Swallows."

With his jinxing runs down the flank, and no doubt eager to catch the eye of Bafana Bafana coach Carlos Alberto Parreira in the process, winger Cecil Oerson has promised to bring 'The Urban Warriors' impressive run to a halt.

"This race title is getting interesting and I guess we still have a chance to clinch it," said Oerson. "My aim is to impress the senior national coach and become the first Swallows players to represent Bafana Bafana under his leadership. We know what Ajax can do and all we have to do is to win to see our chances looking possible."

Key players:

Moroka Swallows - Cecil Oerson
Oerson has been one of Swallows' most consistent performers and the midfielder will form a key part of coach Gavin Hunt's plans against Ajax Cape Town.

Ajax Cape Town - Thembinkosi Fanteni
Fanteni has enjoyed an excellent season for Ajax thus far and he will be keen to continue his fine form and find more goals for the 'Urban Warriors'.

2006/07 Castle Premiership statistics:

Moroka Swallows:

Current league position: Sixth
Biggest victory: 2-0 v Santos (H), December 17, 2006
Biggest defeat: 0-4 v BidVest Wits (H), November 8, 2006
Leading scorer: Niang - Five goals (1 SAA, 3 PSL, 1 Telkom)

Ajax Cape Town:

Current league position: First
Biggest victory: 3-0 v Jomo Cosmos (H), January 24, 2007
Biggest defeat: 1-2 v Moroka Swallows (H), September 30, 2006 and v Bloemfontein Celtic (A), October 15, 2006
Leading scorer: Fanteni - Nine goals (7 PSL, 2 Telkom)

Match preview by Patrick Baloyi/Backpagepix

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For more information please visit
www.vw.co.za
Sunday, March 11
Castle Premiership:
Wits v Swallows
Kick-off: 3.45pm
Venue: Bidvest Stadium

March 3
Castle Premiership
Won 1-0 v Arrows
Venue: Germiston Stadium

February 24
Absa Cup
Lost 0-2 v Pirates
Venue: Olen Park

February 17
Castle Premiership
Lost 0-1 v Sundowns
Venue: Loftus Stadium

February 11
Castle Premiership
Won 2-0 v Ajax CT
Venue: Germiston

POLL
Where will Moroka Swallows finish this season?

Win the league
 7%
Top three
 18%
Top five
 22%
Top eight
 52%