Terrance Mandaza’s brace and Lemponye ‘FC’ Tshireletso’s first goal in Popa Blue were enough to give Township Rollers a positive start to their title defense, a 3-0 triumph over Nico United in the BTC Premiership contest played at the Serowe Sports Complex on Sunday afternoon. The three points and three goals, as well as the clean sheet became the ignition to get the Blue engine rolling into the 2016-17 campaign. But, as coach Mark Harrison had expected, Rollers was initially made to work hard by a tenacious and new Nico side. Mogogi Gabonamong and Simisani Mathumo sat out the tie after concerns over fitness over the past week, with Senegalese striker Pape Abdulaye Ndaw also excluded from the squad, as he had to make a trip home to Dakar over family committments.The Blues started the contest with a 4-3-3 tactical formation; Kabelo Dambe in goal with Zebras defensive pairing Mosha Gaolaolwe and Bogosi ‘Resco’ Kaekwe in central defence, with fullbacks Tshepo ‘Talk Talk’ Motlhabankwe and Kaone Vanderwesthuizen completing the back four. A familiar midfield trio of anchor Lawrence ‘Tico’ Majawa, captain Maano Ditshupo and Segolame Boy was deployed, with central striker Mandaza in attack alongside wingers Joel Mogorosi and Tshireletso.
The weekend began with the country feeling collective empathy for Selibe Phikwe as the town’s biggest employer, BCL mine, the firm whose employees founded Nico in the early 1970s shut down its operations with talk of potential liquidation. But on the football pitch Nico showed precious little sign of discord. They matched Rollers in the game’s opening exchanges, with Nelson Moreetsi trying to dictate terms in the middle of the park for Majombolo. His teammates worked on trying to involve their forward Gift Moyo, and his partner in attack, new signing from Mochudi Rovers, Lovemore Bogatsu. But Rollers were never really troubled, and the Blues’ quality eventually told. On the stroke of half time, a Mandaza header went into the net after connecting to a Tshepo Motlhabankwe assist, giving the Blues a 1-0 lead at the break. Into the second half Rollers were now in cruise control, and Nico’s resistance was irreparably broken. Mandaza struck again, getting on the end of a Segolame Boy assist and dribbling past the defenders to make it 2-0 to Rollers in the 61st minute.
In the 69th minute Mandaza, having scored Rollers’ first two goals of the season was rested, with Galabgwe Moyana coming in as his replacement. Moyana made immediate impact, he was barely a minute on the pitch when his free kick cross made its way to Tshireletso who made it 3-0 to Rollers. Edwin ‘Moluba’ Moalosi replaced Tshireletso in the 79th minute, while Ntesang ‘Mirror’ Simanyana was brought on for Boy in the 84th minute. Expressing his views in a post-match interview with rollersfc.com, our head coach Mark Harrison said he was happy with the outcome of the opening match. “I am obviously pleased with the result, the three goals,the three points; and keeping a clean sheet was another positive, in an opening game when opposition teams are really charged up,” Harrison said. But the Blues mentor still felt that the overall performance was below what he expects from his side.
“Actually this was not the performance we know we are capable of, my boys will also agree here, we were at 50 or 60 percent of our strength. We have not been playing competitive football for a long time and training every day in no substitute for competitive football. We looked rusty at times, we were not at our best but that is something that we will pick up and work on as the season progresses. For now, we’ll be pleased to have won it most importantly without conceding,” Harrison expressed. Overall, Rollers had done enough to earn three crucial points, and will now look forward to Friday’s league encounter against newcomers Black Forest, as the Blues hope to make a positive impression early on in the campaign. [www.rollersfc.com]