Njabulo Ngcobo had an ’okay’ debut for Kaizer Chiefs, says Stuart Baxter
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JOHANNESBURG - Coach Stuart Baxter says the screams that advocated for Njabulo Ngcobo to be thrown in the deep end at Kaizer Chiefs hasn't helped his cause after an “okay” debut during their embarrassing defeat to Royal AM at home on Saturday.
After a stellar debut season in top-flight football with Swallows FC, Ngcobo scooped the PSL Defender of the Season award in June. But he made the switch from Dobsonville to Naturena when the transfer window opened about three months ago.
At Chiefs he was expected to fit in like a glove and become an instant regular. But that hasn't happened. He had to watch from the stands or the bench in their first four games. That shocked fans, given that he was a Bafana Bafana player.
He impressed during his cameo against Ghana in the 2022 World Cup qualifier, while he was instrumental when they claimed the Cosafa Cup. Baxter, though, said he won't get an “automatic passport” to his team because of his selection at Bafana.
However, the Brit finally handed Ngcobo his full debut against Royal AM. But it was a day to forget for the 27-year-old at the office as Chiefs were hammered 4-1 by Royal AM at FNB Stadium. Ngcobo looked out of place for the better part of the game.
“He's going to make mistakes, he's going to give us some strength. But the same as every player, I think the screaming after ‘push him in, push him in' doesn't help him. It doesn't help anybody,” said Baxter.
“I gave him the game tonight because I thought it was the right game to go in. I wanted him to drive forward a little bit with the ball on his side and dominate a little bit because of the way they play. But it was his first game. He did okay, but he could do a lot better.”
Ngcobo wasn't the only player who had a debut to forget, given that goalkeeper Brandon Petersen conceded four goals. Prior to the game, Petersen hadn't played an official match since he last featured for Wits in August last year.
“I thought his distribution was good in the first half. His calmness was also quite good. But whenever he had to make a save, it was the last big save. I don't think it was a very easy game for Brandon in that respect,” said Baxter.
It appears that Chiefs struggled all round at home as Baxter believes that marquee signing Keagan Dolly was not at his best on the day as well. Dolly has been Chiefs' livewire since the start of the season, also contributing in the revival of Khama Billiat.
But against Royal AM he wasn't as sharp as he was against Mamelodi Sundowns, TS Galaxy and Baroka FC. Baxter says it may be due to a lack of regular game time in the last four seasons at Ligue 1 side, Montpellier.
“Keagan had done better in his previous game than he did tonight. I thought he showed some flashes of his quality, but he didn't show the consistency.
“I thought when you've been out as he has, you push, and push but breathe out a little bit,” Baxter said.