Cape Town - Orlando Pirates coach Milutin Sredojevic has sent out a strong message to the critics who have attempted to kill Justin Shonga's confidence this season.
The Zambia international had come in for criticism after registering just one goal in 13 appearances across all competitions for the Buccaneers in the opening three months of the new campaign.
Shonga opened his account for the season with the equaliser in a 1-1 draw against Highlands Park on August 4, but went 12 matches without a goal and failed to convert a penalty in the Soweto derby success over Kaizer Chiefs recently.
However, the 22-year-old forward ended his drought on Tuesday after scoring in the 2-1 win over Polokwane City at the Peter Mokaba Stadium, as Pirates went two points clear of Wits at the top of the Premiership table.
Sredojevic insists the club always had belief in the youngster, who bagged three goals in three games for his country in the last month, and the Serbian coach had stern words for his doubters.
"Respect to all the people that think our players are machines, I want to tell you that they are human beings with feelings and emotions," he said.
"As such, it was not pleasing to look at Justin Shonga missing that penalty [in the Soweto derby], missing other chances and immediately being branded in a way to kill his confidence.
"We as a technical team are watching and we have trust, confidence and belief in him; his team-mates have trust, confidence and belief in him."
'Micho' also stressed there is more to Shonga's game than just goals, adding: "These [assists] are something of more value because when you assist, two people are happy - you, because you assisted, plus the one that has scored. So, we are very satisfied.
"You know, a player without confidence being attacked from right and left is like a balloon without air. So, I hope that his goal will inject confidence in himself, because he's a very good player - he has shown with that goal and assists.
"We are now expecting in times ahead of us that his confidence will grow and that he will get better, and we shall support him all the way."