It has been absolute luxury for Be Forward Wanderers, who for months have revelled in being at the summit of the TNM Super League.
But the Nomads’ time in the sun faces a stern test this afternoon as any slip could prove fatal with their age-old rivals Nyasa Big Bullets breathing down their necks.
For weeks, they have huffed and puffed but this could be it.
The Nomads have 40 points from 18 matches just two ahead of the People’s Team.
A win for Bullets against Dwangwa United this afternoon at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre and either a draw or loss for the Nomads in Mzuzu against Mzuni FC, could see the champions taking over at the pinnacle of the 16-team top-flight league.
Wanderers head coach Bob Mpinganjira on Friday admitted that they are under pressure to bag full points in their Northern Region sojourn that will also see them face Moyale Barracks tomorrow.
“Unfortunately even a point won’t be good enough as Bullets have a better goal difference and that just shows how tight it is.
“We must win both our games if we are to remain in control of the proceedings and we’ll have to fight our lungs out,” he said.
The Lali Lubani Road outfit has a goal difference of 28, four short of Bullets.
Ironically, the Nomads host Bullets next Saturday in a potentially explosive showdown that could prove vital in the chase for the title.
However, Bullets assistant coach chose to play out some mind games, insisting the odds are still stacked in their rivals’ favour.
“Of course, we are slowly closing in, but we won’t be carried away by a few good results. We will play the catch-up game and see what happens.
“For now, however, Wanderers are calling the shots and we will take each game as it comes,” he said.
Commenting on today’s game, Mponda said: “We cannot afford to underrate Dwangwa, we know they have come into the second round with renewed purpose and their wins over big teams such as Silver [Strikers] and Civil Sporting [Club] are no fluke.”
Meanwhile, revenge sounds a strong word, but Civil Sporting Club have a score to settle this afternoon when they host rivals Silver Strikers at Civo Stadium in the latest episode of the capital city derby.
The Civil Servants will be out to avenge the TNM Super League first round 2-1 loss to the Central Bankers in their quest to continue with their resurgence.
There has been too much talk, especially from those of the old school that the contests today are a poor imitation of the good old days when the capital city derby was such a massive encounter that used to drive the fans through a bewildering gut of emotions.
Times when the two fallen giants used to boast talented artists whose magical boots used to create lasting memories.
That both teams have not won the top-flight league for the past six years is testimony of how they have lost their way.
Although the golden era has passed, the rivalry is still alive and there is always something special about this match whenever it comes up and it will not be different this afternoon.
Silver lie fifth in the 16-team league with 33 points from 19 matches while Civil are seventh and trail the Central Bankers by five points.
Interestingly, it will also be the first time that Silver assistant coach Abbas Makawa will face his Civil counterpart Elia Kananji after both ditched Masters Security FC where the former was in charge with the latter as his assistant.
Kananji on Friday said he is relishing a double.
“It would be a good feeling to hit back for the first round loss and, at the same time, get the better of my former boss [Makawa]. It would be an incredible feeling,” he said.
However, the odds appear stacked against Civil who only resumed training on Thursday after their players staged a boycott, demanding their allowances for their recent sojourn to Mozambique where they played an international friendly match.
But Kananji played down the hold-up, insisting that it is water under the bridge.
“The issue has been sorted out and the players’ focus has shifted to the task at hand,” he said.
The Civil Servants are also keeping their fingers crossed that their experienced defender Emmanuel Zoya and lanky forward Fletcher Bandawe will pass late fitness tests after recovering from injuries while injury-plagued forward Raphael Phiri is ruled out until next season.
On the other hand, Makawa said they are aiming at back-to-back victories over their rivals.
“It is always a tricky encounter because pride takes centre stage and at times it affects the rhythm due to the tension that characterises the derby.
“Nevertheless, we are ready and it is encouraging that we are all pulling in the same direction and if we play according to plan, we should come out victorious,” he said.
However, the Central Bankers suffered a major setback on Thursday when their first-choice goalkeeper Brightone Munthali got injured in training and will not be available for selection.
Last season, the two teams settled for a one-all draw in the first round while Civil won the second round encounter 1-2. n