Cape Town - In what can aptly be described a somersault in fortune, Highlands Park, "The Lions of the North", have lost their bite and gone eight Absa Premiership games without a victory after avoiding as much as a single defeat in a previous eight-match spell.
It is a downward slide that has left articulate coach Owen da Gama nothing short of perplexed and frustrated, while asserting that if "The Lions of the North" do not regain their winning habit in the home Absa Premiership game against Golden Arrows at Makhulong Stadium on Saturday afternoon, he will cancel his intention to give the team a break over the festive season and instead implement a rigorous training programme "to get to the bottom of what is an inexplicable decline in results.
"And," added the resolute coach, "if that means no merry Christmas, so let it be."
Da Gama is most perplexed by the fact that Highlands have played the same brand of soccer through their period of ongoing success that took them to fourth place in the log and the deflating decline that has resulted in a decline to eighth position.
"What has happened," he added, "is that we have missed an explicable number of gilt-edged opportunities. Yes we have suffered from injuries and some excruciating bad luck - everyone will remember how we were beaten 1-0 by Orlando Pirates with a goal scored from an off-side position of three or four metres. But basically it is the poor finishing that has been the problem."
And to illustrate the point is the fact that Highlands scored 10 times during their eight-game successful run of four wins and four draws, but a meagre three goals from the last seven matches in which four were drawn and three lost.
Significantly, Namibian international Peter Shalulile, who has scored more than 50 percent of Highlands' goals this season, has been ineffective in recent matches, with a number of the club's major signings failing to come up to expectations - and Da Gama hoping the approach of Christmas will change all that.