HIGHLANDS Park coach Owen Da Gama says the humiliating 4-1 hammering his side got at the hands of rookies Stellenbosch FC on Saturday, was down to injuries to a number of key players.

Theywere put to the sword in their own backyard, the Makhulong Stadium, by a hard running Stellies outfit spearheaded by striker Iqraam Rayners.

Rayners, last season’s top scorer in the GladAfrica Championship with 19 goals, was the destroyer in chief as he bagged a brace to inflict a second consecutive defeat on Highlands.

Da Gama’s charges suffered a 3-0 thumping at the hands of leaders Kaizer Chiefs at the FNB Stadium last Wednesday.

And he was adamant that had he had a full-strength squad to pick from, the result would most likely have been different against Stellies and his side would be in a better place on the Absa Premiership table.

Highlands are missing key players such as Thela Ngobeni, Given Msimango, Sphiwe Mahlangu, Makhehleni Makhaula, Ryan Rae and Marks Munyai

“We have struggled with injuries,” bemoaned Da Gama.

“After the Chiefs game, Msimango is out, Mahlangu is out. I mean, it’s like what Ernst Middendorp (Chiefs coach) said, it’s hard to win games without your important players.

“Last season Chiefs were missing three key players and they couldn’t even make the top eight, so who are we? We’re missing seven key players.

“So it makes it very difficult and people don’t understand what we’re going through. We’re not a team that has thirty players of the same calibre.

“We’ve got about fifteen that are ready for the PSL and we’ve got the others that we’re trying to get ready for the PSL. If missing your key players can affect big teams like Chiefs, surely it will be even worse for a team like us. It’s not about luck or anything else, we just didn’t have our best players on the pitch.”

Furthermore, Da Gama believes the PSL’s scheduling of games has not been kind to them as it has not allowed them much time to nurse their players back to fitness.

Added Da Gama: “Another difficulty that we have has been the fact that most teams would either play on a Saturday or Sunday, we play Sunday, Wednesday Saturday, and I mean big games.

“There are no small games in the PSL. That has been very difficult for us, especially with the injuries. There is no time for the guys to recover. It’s just game after game. Playing three games in six days is not easy.”