It’s in the bag

Westridge FC head coach Ismail du Toit issues some instructions from the sidelines during an under-16 league game in Strandfrontein at the weekend.

Former Santos and Vasco da Gama midfielder, Ismail “Maila” du Toit, who injected a sense of belief in the side at the start of the season, said they are looking to make a clean sweep this season.

Westridge last tasted silverware five years ago – when Du Toit was also their coach. That season he guided them to win the Mitchell’s Plain Local Football Association’s (MPLFA) Super League title, and got them to the Knockout Cup final where they finished runners-up.

At the end of that season, Du Toit took a break from his coaching duties, but the club reeled him in again this year to end their trophy drought. This year the Super League format was changed to be more competitive, with the top 10 teams from the league chosen to make up the Champions League, along with two teams promoted from the Premier League.

Du Toit did not disappoint upon his return to the club.

He has already claimed two trophies – the first round league trophy and the league winners trophy.

And, Westridge still has lots more to play for.

They are through to the LFA Knockout Cup, stand a chance of winning the Grand Challenge trophy, and also need to play in the Third Division promotion play-offs.

Last week, they beat FC Tafelzucht 2-1 in their second last game of the season. That win was enough to clear them at the top of the table ahead of Beacon Spurs to clinch the league title.

“We wrapped up the league against FC Tafelzucht with one game to go. That was exactly what we wanted so that we could go into our last game of the season against second positioned Beacon Spurs with no pressure. The game was very tough. They came out looking for a much needed win themselves in order to avoid relegation, because the point difference in the bottom half of the table is very tight,” said Du Toit.

“They scored first and took a 1-0 lead into the break.

“At half-time I told the boys to lift their heads and get the equiliser as soon as possible, which we got through our captain Kent (Steenveld) and Bradford (Janses) got the winner three minutes from time.

“Prior to the game, I prepped the boys on the importance of the game, and that they should approach it as if it was a cup final,” he said.

“Even though we’ve already claimed the league, we need to beat Spurs in our last game of the season so that we can claim the second round Grand Challenge trophy as well.

“The first round we won by seven points and the second round has been tighter. We beat Spurs 2-0 in the first round with two second half goals, and they will look to avenge that loss and take the Grand Challenge from us,” he said.

The former pro player said the strength of the team is in their defensive unit. And, the return of their top goalscorer, Clinton Jacobs – who served a two-game suspension – is just what they needed.

The Knockout semi-final will be contested next week and Westridge will look for a similar result when they face FC Tafelzucht once again.

“The team hasn’t played in a final for a while so they will play for that opportunity,” said Du Toit.

“It was important to change the mindsets of the players because they needed to believe in themselves, and believe that we could go all the way. I think continuity has been the key for us. We’ve been the most consistent team in the league and that’s what got us to this point,” he said.

Westridge were knocked out of the Coke Cup competition in the first round by Manenberg’s Crystal Palace. That loss could have only been a blessing in disguise as they were allowed to focus all their energy into their league campaign and Knockout Cup.

At the weekend, they played their final match in the Carling Cup but were knocked out of the competition after they finished runners-up in their group.

“We played our first two group games the day after winning the league.

“The players obviously celebrating that Saturday and we lost 1-0 against Mitchell’s Plain Clinic of Excellence (MPCE). We also played Achorage that day and won 8-0.

“On Sunday we beat Morgenster 8-0 in our final group game but that wasn’t enough to get us into the quarters,” said Du Toit.

“In November we’ll take part in the Third Division promotion play-offs. This is where the winners of all the LFA’s come together to play in a mini-tournament, and the two teams who are in the final will get promoted to the third division.

“I feel that if we don’t win the play-offs then winning the league counts for little because it would mean we need to do it all over again next season.

“Winnng the league is a great achievement, but the ultimate goal is to gain promotion to the third division. So, the preparation for this will be key,” he said.

This weekend, the semi-finals and finals of the Carling Cup will take place at the Westridge Oval.

On the day, there will also be entertainment with English Premier League games being played on TV.