A tussle for saving grace

2012-04-07 00:00

TOMORROW’S PSL affair between Maritzburg United and Santos at the Harry Gwala stadium will be crucially important for both sides, but United coach Ernst Middendorp has said that he will not approach the game any differently to how he did when his side drew 0-0 with SuperSport United on Wednesday night.

United are in 13th place on the PSL table and six points ahead of their Cape Town opposition, who occupy 15th spot. If United win tomorrow, they will move nine points clear of the relegation/promotion play-off place and, with only six games remaining in the season, will surely be safe from any fears of National First Division football next season.

A Santos victory, however, closes the gap between the sides to just three points and will ensure a nervy yet familiar run in for the Team of Choice.

“Nothing changes, we go out there looking to do the same things and to win the game,” Middendorp told Weekend Witness.

The coach favoured a narrow 4-4-2 formation against SuperSport, which worked a treat defensively as central midfielders Michael Morton and Chillies Madondo held the fort in front of a solid back four.

But, as has been the case with United for most of the season, the problem area is not defending goals, but scoring them.

Since Middendorp’s re-arrival at Harry Gwala in December there has been much emphasis on producing quality football in the final third of the pitch, but Wednesday night’s display proved that United are still some way off being a side that can provide continuous threats in front of goal.

Striker Diyo Sibisi is in poor form and appears to have lost a yard of pace this season, while his Zimbabwean colleague Cuthbert Malajila is yet to make an impact since joining under Middendorp, and has failed to score a PSL goal in seven appearances.

In Felix Obada United have a genuine attacking threat, but the Nigerian’s final ball into the area has been poor all season and he has fallen out of favour with Middendorp in recent weeks.

Only last placed Jomo Cosmos have scored fewer goals than United this season and Santos will be buoyed by the fact that they have scored seven more than their opponents tomorrow.

United conceded twice in the last five minutes to lose 2-1 when the sides met at Athlone Stadium last October, but at home United have proven that they are a tough nut to crack.

Midfielder Kurt Lentjies is still suspended, but Middendorp will have everyone else available.

“Kurt is a fantastic player who is capable of doing things on the field,” said Middendorp. “We will miss him but we will not use that as an excuse.”

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 3 pm and will be televised on SuperSport 4.

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