Chippa United have moved out of the relegation playoff spot in the Absa Premiership despite being held 1-1 by Highlands Park at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The result sees the Chilli Boys rise above Baroka FC (who drop to 15th) on goal difference, while the Lions of the North remain in ninth place.
Highlands created all of the early pressure and chances, with Sabelo Nyembe denied by a sharp save from Mbongeni Mzimela and heading over from a short corner kick in quick succession in the 11th minute.
Just after the quarter hour mark the visitors spurned two further chances, with debutant Jabulani Shongwe shooting wide of the near post and Mothobi Mvala lobbing just over the target with the ‘keeper stranded off his goal line.
Chippa were crying out for some creativity and energy, and coach Clinton Larsen responded by sending on the maverick talent Mark Mayambela in place of hard-working midfielder Donashano Malama on 31 minutes.
A short while later they had their first genuine scoring opportunity, with Andile Mbenyane sending a glancing header just over the target from Tercious Malepe’s corner kick delivery.
Yet it was Highlands who broke the deadlock in the 42nd minute, with Nyembe receiving a pass from Luckyboy Mokoena in the penalty area before seeing his shot deflected beyond the reach of Mzimela.
Chippa hit back in the final minute of regulation time before the break, as Lerato Manzini first saw his right-footed shot saved by Marlon Heugh, but the rebound fell kindly for the striker who stroked home a left-footed effort for 1-1.
Chances dried up in the second half, with the game taking on a more physical nature as the tackles flew in. Chippa tried to be the more pro-active team, introducing attackers Ruzaigh Gamildien and Rhulani Manzini off the bench, while Highlands fancied their chances of unsettling Mzimela, who continually looked unsteady whenever there were bodies in the penalty area.
Ultimately, neither team was able to make the breakthrough and they were forced to settle for a share of the spoils. Chippa and Highlands will be back in league action on April 6, with the former away to AmaZulu and the latter at home to Free State Stars.
Chippa United (1) 1 (L. Manzini 45’)
Highlands Park (1) 1 (Nyembe 42’)
Chippa: Mzimela, Macheke, Nsabiyumva, Shitolo, Tlolane, Komane, Malepe, Malama (Mayambela 31’), Mbenyane (Gamildien 75’), Rakhale, L. Manzini (R. Manzini 72’)
Highlands: Heugh, L. Mokoena, Fransman, Msimango, Williams, Rae, Shongwe (Motlafi 66’), Motsepe, Nyembe (Hoaseb 84’), Mvala, Shalulile