The second season in the PSL for the relative PSL newbies began with much fanfare as Bafana Bafana legend Benni McCarthy was unveiled as the club’s new coach, replacing the departed Eric Tinkler who had led the Citizens to Telkom Knockout success and a third-place league finish.
High-profile acquisitions Teko Modise and Ayanda Patosi gave the club’s growing support even more reason to believe, and it was a fairytale start to McCarthy’s first head coaching stint, beating mentor Gavin Hunt in his first league game in charge.
Despite inconsistent results thereafter, City remained in the running near the summit of the table, and after a memorable victory over Mamelodi Sundowns in December, ended the year second on the Absa Premiership standings.
Yet once again inconsistency set in, and while trying to navigate both Nedbank Cup and CAF Confederation Cup fixtures in February, lost four PSL games on the trot as their slim title hopes faded away.
Nevertheless, the up-and-down nature of the league this season saw City end the season in a respectable fifth place, despite registering just one league win in their last six games of the campaign.
McCarthy almost secured a trophy at the first time of asking, overcoming Polokwane City and defending league champions Bidvest Wits to secure a maiden spot in last year’s MTN8 final, where his side narrowly lost out following a penalty shootout loss to SuperSport United after a 1-1 draw in regulation time.
Failing at the first hurdle in the defence of their Telkom Knockout crown after going down 1-0 to Baroka, City fared a little better in the Nedbank Cup, once again overcoming Wits and then Soweto giants Orlando Pirates before being edged out 2-1 by Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals.
Third-place last year meant a maiden journey into Africa, as City came out tops in their first round CAF Confederation Cup qualifier, beating Swazi outfit Young Buffaloes 1-0 in both their home and away legs to advance to the next round.
But that’s where their continental journey would end, bowing out on away goals to Mozambique outfit Costa do Sol, losing 2-1 at home after their 1-0 win on the road.
McCarthy sounded like a broken record in constantly lamenting his side’s missed chances in front of goal, with the stats backing up his complaints: despite keeping 53.3% possession on average, the fourth-highest in the PSL, City only scored 26 goals in 30 league games – the fourth-worst in the PSL – and had the third-worst shot accuracy in front of goal at just 26.8%.
Areas of improvement
Patosi ended as the team’s top scorer with six goals, with Lehlohonolo Majoro second with five strikes, despite leaving the club in January. City on scored more than one goal in six of their 42 games across all competitions last season, clearly highlighting their problems in attack. Along with Majoro’s departure, Victor Obinna came and went, Judas Moseamedi, Nana Akosah-Bempah and Masoud Juma failed to fire while 2018 recruit Matthew Rusike, after scoring on debut, has not delivered since.
With McCarthy as coach, no doubt a serious search for a finisher will be the club’s primary concern.