Highlands Park have moved back into the top eight of the Absa Premiership after a narrow 1-0 win over Baroka FC at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday night.
The result, secured by a somewhat controversial goal from Bevan Fransman, sees the Lions of the North move to eighth place on 26 points. Bakgaga remain in 13th on 20 points – two places and three points above the relegation zone.
The teams took their time to find a rhythm, with the first real chance only arriving just before the half hour mark when Highlands winger Lindokuhle Mbatha was presented with a sight of goal but saw his effort well blocked by Denwin Farmer.
Ranga Chivaviro soon headed wide at the other end for Baroka, who were the more patient of the two teams in their approach, with the hosts too often sending hopeful long balls forward for Peter Shalulile to chase – the Namibian was always a willing and selfless runner, but the approach did nothing to play to his strengths.
The half ended 0-0, with neither goalkeeper having been truly tested. Baroka looked the more creative and confident team in attack, though the composure and commanding presence of veteran Bevan Fransman ensured the hosts remained watertight up to the break.
Highlands, who swapped out the injured Mothobi Mvala for Ryan Rae at the start of the second half, had two fine chances soon after the restart: the first saw Shalulile run into space and shoot on the turn, forcing a fine save from Ayanda Dlamini, while the subsequent corner end with a loose ball which Fransman stabbed over from close range.
Highlands’ greater positivity in the second half was rewarded with a goal in the 70th minute. Rae’s long throw-in was directed onto the crossbar by Shalulile, before the rebound was headed on target by Fransman – Farmer headed the ball clear but was standing behind his goal line and the referee indicated that the hosts had broken the deadlock.
Television replays suggested the ball had probably crossed the line, but there was no definitive confirmation that the match officials were correct in awarding the goal.
Baroka gambled in the final minutes by throwing on striker Mandisi Gadla in place of defender Matome Kgoetyane, and they had a few close shaves – including hitting the crossbar in extra time – but the Lions of the North clung on to claim all three points and break their losing streak.
The teams will return to Premiership action in two weeks’ time, with Baroka at home to Bidvest Wits and Highlands hosting Bloemfontein Celtic – both on Saturday 15 February.
Highlands Park (0) 1 (Fransman 70’)
Baroka FC 0
Highlands: Heugh, Mokoena, Fransman, Mzava, Ramoraka, Mbatha (Ramagalela 68’), Mbunjana, Mogaila (Mbhele 90+6’), Mvala (Rae 46’), Motsepe, Shalulile
Baroka: Dlamini Kgoetyane (Gadla 82’), Gebhardt, Farmer, Ngubane, Masiya, Sampson (Patjie 73’), Mosele, Maloka, Phiri Jr, Chivaviro (Mbulu 63’)