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30-point survival mark

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As Big Bullets get out of sight with the TNM Super League championship, anxiety and uncertainty is gradually pilling up in the bottom half of the 15-member table where six teams have the noose around their necks.

Airborne Rangers are far from landing into the safety net. Fisd Wizards need more magic to cheat the axe. Mzuni must master more football theories. Dedza should reproduce their ice-cold resilience. As for Epac, they need urgent salvation.

It is a dog-fight and only the fittest and smartest will survive.

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Rangers are placed 10th on 20 points from 21 games. Just a rung below them, Mzuni have similar points with one more game played at par with Dedza, who have 20 points. Dedza are one point ahead of Epac and Fisd Wizards at the tail-end.

Last season, Rangers barely survived after hitting the 30-point survival mark. With six games to the finish line, can the Stereo Gondwe-coached side repeat that this season?

“We know what we have to do to survive. Critical for us is winning all our away games, so that we should not play under pressure at home,” said Gondwe, who has still to play Epac, Tigers, Red Lions, Be Forward Wanderers, Mzuni and Silver Strikers.

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It is a no-brainer that if Rangers want to survive, they have to steal maximum points from meetings with fellow strugglers, Epac and Mzuni. Not an easy task considering that the likes of Mzuni, who host Be Forward Wanderers today, have bolstered their coaching panel with seasoned Kinnah Phiri.

Dedza, like Rangers, have a difficult job to preserve the Central Region’s good record when it comes to relegation.

Most teams from the region survive upon promotion into the Super League.

Dedza coach, Millias Pofela, admits that with suspicious officiation and the mounting pressure against relegation, the battle is far from being won.

“We have six games to go, and if we can collect, at least 10 points, we will be safe. We must start collecting the points against Eagles this weekend. Getting a draw against Bullets was a boost,” Pofela said ahead of remaining battles, including against Epac, Civo United, Kamuzu Barracks, Wizards and Wanderers.

Wizards have more two games in hand compared to the rest of the strugglers, but on 15 points from 19 games, playing catch-up has its own disadvantages.

Wizards, who host Kamuzu Barracks today, must also play Wanderers and Bullets among other opponents on roaster.

However, Wizards chairperson, Mike Tembo, insists that “we just need three wins from the remaining games then all will be fine.” However, three wins will still not translate into 30 points.

If there be need for a clue on who is likely to get the chop, then look no further than the Super League’s relegation records in the past five years.

During the five years, no newly-promoted teams from the Northern and Southern regions have survived beyond a season. And overall, no team survives without hitting 30 points.

Last season, Blantyre United, Chikwawa United and Karonga United got the chop after finishing on position 13, 14 and 15 with 21, 20 and 16 points, respectively.

Two seasons ago, Mponela United, Evirom and Mzuzu United were relegated with 26, 20 and 12 points, respectively.

In the 2012 season, Bvumbwe Research, Escom United and Kabwafu United exited the Super League on 13th, 14th and 15th places with a meagre 24, 19 and 14 points, respectively.

To their credit and with an exception of Mponela United, the Central Region has always produced mature candidates for the Super League. But, again, that record is under threat as Rangers and Epac sit dangerously in the danger zone.

So, the race to the 30-point survival mark has just started. Fasten your seat belts. The championship race is as good as over and the relegation battle has just begun.

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