A tougher tie for United

2013-09-21 00:00

HAVING returned to winning ways, Maritzburg United travel to Johannesburg this afternoon for the second time in as many weeks to take on Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium.

The Team of Choice beat Mpumalanga Black Aces at Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday, and coach Ernst Middendorp, who instructed his charges to play an attacking game against the newly promoted side, could revert to a more cautious approach against Swallows.

Or, after a good performance, he could stick with the attacking mindset as United look to upset the apple cart and claim a big scalp.

The Dube Birds are of course a different animal compared to Clive Barker’s Black Aces and sit second on the PSL table, but level on points with early pacesetters.

In Siyabonga Nomvete, Zeca Marques’s side have one of the most prolific and experienced strikers in the history of SA soccer and will look to exert his influence on the game.

Of course, the side are also laden with Bafana Bafana capped players, and they will look to cause Middendorp’s boys problems.

Having started the new season well, Swallows sit on 10 points, and United could find themselves in a good position should they beat the highly rated side and come back to Pietermaritzburg with the three points ahead of their home encounter against the league leaders SuperSport United on Monday, just two days later.

Prior to the start of the season, Middendorp always maintained that the target for the season was a top-eight finish after falling near the finish line in that goal last season.

After a slow start to the season that saw them score just one goal in four games, they received a booster this week when they beat Black Aces and controlled the game for large periods.

The coach will also be happy with the contribution of 21-year-old Ayanda Nkosi, who found the back of the net just three minutes into his Premier League debut, and looked a threat, whether attacking through the middle or drifting out wide.

The German will also be pleased with the return of Mohammed Yakubu, although the Ghanaian was not 100% fit when he started him against Black Aces. Middendorp said during the week that Yakubu will be assessed to determine whether he will play any part in today’s game.

The understanding between midfielder Ryan de Jongh, Nkosi and Yakubu was almost telepathic at times on Wednesday, and depending on the Ghanaian’s condition, they could all start again ahead of Zimbabwean Terrance Mandaza and Dutchman Orlando Smeekes.

Thabang Matuka, who came on for Yakubu 10 minutes into the second half and nearly found the back of the net, could be given the nod should the Ghanaian be deemed not fit to start.

United’s midfield had a versatile look to it on Wednesday with Ashley Hartog, De Jongh, Thamsanqa Mkhize and Nkosi drifting across the midfield and changing positions from time to time.

A worry for United will be their captain Michael Morton, who was the victim of a reckless two-footed challenge in the first half. Morton was replaced with five minutes of regulation remaining by defender Mohammed Awal.

Robyn Johannes seems to have dislodged Awal in the heart of defence alongside Mario Booysen and has started the last two games — against Kaizer Chiefs and Black Aces — with the Black Stars international being relegated to the bench.

The game will kick off at 3 pm and will be broadcast on SuperSport 4.

• lunga.biyela@witness.co.za

POSSIBLE LINEUP

1 Shu-Aib Walters, 15 Ruben Cloete, 16 Rheece Evans 5 Robyn Johannes, 3 Mario Booysen, 6 Michael Morton, 18 Ryan de Jongh, 27 Thamsanqa Mkhize, 25 Ashley Hartog, 21 Ayanda Nkosi, 20 Thabang Matuka

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