Martin counting on Usuthu’s character in late push for Top 8

Pablo Franco Martin still believes that AmaZulu can make the top eight in the DStv Premiership. | BackpagePix

Pablo Franco Martin still believes that AmaZulu can make the top eight in the DStv Premiership. | BackpagePix

Published May 14, 2024


Smiso Msomi

AmaZulu head coach Pablo Franco Martin is leaning on his side’s character to hopefully power them into the top eight after a gruelling draw with Kaizer Chiefs.

Usuthu fought back from an Ashley du Preez goal in the second minute to rescue a point against the Amakhosi and kept themselves within two points of a place in the top eight.

Nevertheless, what began as a positive first campaign for Martin has now turned into a scramble by the KwaZulu Natal-based outfit to qualify for next season’s MTN8.

Usuthu played in the final of the 2022 edition of the tournament and are desperate to participate in it once again, and have entrusted the Spanish-born coach with that responsibility.

Martin spoke to the media after their match against Chiefs in Durban and could not hide his pride in his team’s response to the early setback. He then also spoke about the numerous challenges they’ve been able to overcome in various games this season.

“We have overcome a lot of critical things with this team on and off the field and the spirit of this team has been clear from day one, and I’m really pleased with how the boys are responding and behaving in these situations,” he said.

“I think the point was a fair result in the end. I’m happy because at this stage we have more points than we had last season with two more games to go.

“We’re still alive in the fight for the top eight, which I think is something that’s realistic for this club. We’re looking forward to the next two games and to finish in the best place possible.”

With the season seemingly drawing to a disappointing end for Usuthu, comparisons have been made with their previous campaign in which they were dragged into a relegation battle later on.

AmaZulu head coach Pablo Martin Franco and club president Sandile Zungu. | BackpagePix

The club’s president, Sandile Zungu, had invigorated ambitions of possibly returning the team to potential title challengers under Martin this season, as was the case in the 2020/2021 campaign.

With their relegation worries all but settled, Martin believes his side is making strides in comparison to last season and could even end off with a better placing.

“We’re one of the teams that have conceded the least goals in the PSL, I think we’re in the top five when it comes to those numbers,” he remarked.

“I have said it a lot this season that our main problem has been our accuracy in front of goal. It is also true that we are also one of the teams creating more chances with more figures in terms of expected goals.

“If we want to consistently win games, if we consistently want to be competing inside the top eight (we need to score our chances).”

Next on AmaZulu’s agenda is a difficult pair of games as they travel to fourth-placed Sekhukhune United in Limpopo before hosting arch-rivals Golden Arrows at home in the last game of the season.

Usuthu will head into the match against Sekhukhune with a slight psychological advantage having beaten Babina Noko in their past three meetings in all competitions.

Martin has also grabbed two big wins against Arrows this season and is optimistic about his side’s chances of emerging with positive results.

“It’s going to be a tough game and we’ve already experienced this against them (Sekhukhune) but we walked away with a win and also Arrows is a KZN derby and we want to keep dominating the province,” he concluded.