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Big Bullets test of character

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It is in moments such as these that genuine Big Bullets players and coaches must show their character, stand up to be counted and weather the storm, says the team’s senior player.

The moments being talked about are the morale-deflating two straight identical 2-1 defeats that have left a remarkable 17- game unbeaten TNM Super League run in the shadow at Bullets.

But context matters.

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After all, last season, Bullets won the league last season with 18 wins, two defeats and the rest draws, so one league defeat in 18 games and 10 games to go should never be a trigger of crisis.

It is on this premise that Bullets technical advisor, Billy Tewesa, after a second loss in four days to Airborne Rangers last Sunday, sought to calm the nerves.

“We are just going through a bad patch. This is football for you. Let me assure the Bullets family that we will definitely win the league this season,” Tewesa told the press in post-match interviews.

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Bullets’ maximum tally last season was 62 and now they can go as far as 71 and their closest pursuers such as Silver Strikers and Civo United are far off the pace.

However, because a football game guarantees nothing, there is no denying that the next three months are not for the psychologically feeble supporters at the club.

The team will, no doubt, be tested and stretched to the limit— on and off the pitch.

From being an awe-inspiring and all-conquering machine, suddenly cracks of vulnerability are emerging in what was an otherwise invincible and, largely, irresistible force.

How the Bullets family sticks together and ride storms, which defeats trigger, will be crucial.

With 10 tricky league battles remaining, tension mounting amid finger-pointing, the bullet-proof vest has come off the Red Army.

And those in the red side of town should be worried that the first league defeat emerged on the road to Airborne Rangers.

Bullets have to travel to Lilongwe a number of times.

In Rangers’ assistant coach Kondwani Gawani’s own words, they on Sunday read the tactical script right by frustrating the visitors under the sweltering heat of Dwangwa to inflict on them a 2-1 defeat.

“We saw that they were running a lot and we told our players to keep calm and wait until their [Bullets] legs collapse. In the second half, Bullets legs collapsed and we pounced on them,” Gawani told the press in a post-match interview.

In the remaining games, Bullets travel to Dedza for a chat with naughty Dedza Young Soccer Stars, Silver and Kamuzu Barracks (KB) will travel to Blantyre. Lest it be forgotten that KB handed the Bullets the first league defeat last season.

What more with other trips to Blue Eagles, Epac and Civo United in the capital city?

Such games should not have been news if Bullets had not lost to Civo to exit the 2015 Standard Bank knock-Out semifinal before Rangers emulated Civo’s example in similar manner by coming from behind to win.

Suddenly, wheels of invincibility have gone off Bullets. Civo coach Oscar Kaunda saw them go off and, as revealed by captain Emmanuel Zoya, all they needed was stick to a game-plan.

“The instructions were that we must not allow them to cross the ball and that they must not score first. Even when they did, we did not give up,” Zoya said last Friday.

So, opponents are now able to spot perceptible weaknesses in Bullets and pounce accordingly.

However, one defeat in 18 games is no crisis.

However, there is every reason to believe that come this December Bullets will, for a record time, still be crowned champions.

The optimism stems from their consistency, an ability to grind out wins, relative unity among supporters. Even after Thursday’s defeat, the fans kept their calm and applauded the players.

Tactically, the Bullets coaches get it right in most games. The team has probably the best striker in Chiukepo Msowoya, who can score almost from nothing.

The anger and hunger of the recent cup disappointment should surely be transformed into positive energy for the Bullets.

No domestic football giant knows how to bounce back even stronger from adversity.

Bullets can now afford some slip ups because they already laid the foundation for their title retention through that 17-game unbeaten run.

If Bullets play and win the two games they have in hand over second-placed Mafco, the Peoples Team’s cushion should easily expand.

In the final analysis, as the team’s former captain Peter Mponda believes, the title is still for Bullets to lose.

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