Baxter refuses to give up title hopes

Kaizer Chiefs have fallen five points adrift of PSL league leaders Mamelodi Sundowns.

Kaizer Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - Kaizer Chiefs Coach Stuart Baxter on Thursday refused to concede that his team's Premier Soccer League (PSL) title race is over.

This despite his side falling five points behind log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns following a goalless draw against Bidvest Wits in Johannesburg on Wednesday evening.

The result means Sundowns hold the destiny of the title in their own hands, with Masandawana needing to win their remaining two fixtures to claim their first title in seven years.

While Baxter knows that his side is dependent on other teams helping out their title bid, the Amakhosi boss has called on his side to start winning to put pressure on Sundowns.

"We've just got to keep on playing and plugging away. I thought the boys put in a sterling performance given the situation. On a good night, we could have won the game."

He also moved to dismiss suggestions that his side struggles to close out title races.

At one point this season, Chiefs were 13 points clear of their closest challengers.

The trend was noticeable last season, when the Glamour Boys won only one of their last five matches on their way to claiming their first PSL title since 2005.

Baxter says his side has the mental edge to mount a challenge in the final games of the season.

"Last season was more a case of championship nerves. I think we dragged ourselves over the line. This year, the lads are working hard and playing to a decent level. It's more now about whether we have the mental energy and the physical energy to keep pumping out results."

The coach has also given his backing to beleaguered striker Bernard Parker, who hasn't managed to find the back of the net since February.

Parker still tops the PSL scoring charts with 10 goals.

Baxter is in no doubt that the striker will be back in the goals soon.

"Strikers have patches where they can't miss and they also have patches where they have problems, no matter how well they're playing. I'm pleased with the way Bernard is playing at the moment. I think he's come back to a better level."

Parker's form in front of goal will be highlighted further with the news that striker Knowledge Musona will miss the rest of the season with an ankle injury.

This has left Baxter stretched in terms of options up top.

Meanwhile, Bidvest Wits Coach Gavin Hunt believes his side's home form this season was behind their inability to sustain a title challenge.

The Students have drawn their last five fixtures at home.

The coach says if they are to mount a title challenge next season, they need to improve on this record.

"I think we'll get stronger as we stay together and strengthen next year. The players have been magnificent this year, but at the end of the day these five games that we have drawn at home have cost us."

Wits and Chiefs will meet again on 3 May in the semi-final of the Nedbank Cup.

Hunt knows that when the game comes around, Chiefs will be looking for revenge.

"The Cup will be totally different. They'll be up for it because it's a semi-final and Chiefs are the best cup side in South Africa. But we're at home and if we give a performance like that, we've got a great chance."