Arrows will test United

2008-11-04 00:00

MARITZBURG United have entered a delicate period in the early part of the Premier Soccer League season as they prepare to tackle form team Lamontville Golden Arrows at Woodburn Rugby Stadium this afternoon.

After intensive work, Woodburn’s pitch is looking green, lush, well-cut and positively soccer-like as United finally return to the PSL in their home city, just over three months after being promoted from the First Division.

For United, this afternoon’s meeting against Arrows, the only team still unbeaten in the PSL, poses a few questions that will be answered only in the course of 90 minutes.

A depleted United’s 2-0 Telkom Knockout defeat to Free State Stars and 5-0 league thrashing at the hands of champions SuperSport United, both away, have exposed weaknesses in depth. This is largely a result of the team’s late start in the pre-season scramble for players due to the delay in last season’s NFD play-offs.

Crucially, United will have four key players available again this afternoon — left-back Elias Ngwepe, central defender Gary Goldstone, left-wing Tony Tsabedze and central midfielder Sam Ndlovu. That represents a formidable improvement on the team that put up little resistance and made far too many defensive errors against slick SuperSport.

Defensive midfielder John Arwuah, who was dropped against SuperSport but should return in place of Jeffrey Makoti, will further strengthen the side. At right-back, coach Gordon Igesund must decide whether Peter Petersen should come in for Tshepo Mashishi, who has made a few mistakes.

The question that will be asked today is whether United’s weakness is just in depth, or whether the team has been worked out to some extent. Much of the PMB side’s strength has been through the wing play of Sipho Mngomezulu, Tsabedze and Junior Khanye as a substitute, but in the last two games United’s supply to the flanks has been pinched in midfield.

United will be relieved to be back at full strength — barring key striker Fadlu Davids, who has a broken nose — because Arrows will present as tough a test as Supersport.

Under dynamic young coach Manqoba Mngqithi, who has bolstered his technical team with Brazilian assistant Luis Goncalves, goalkeeper-coach Alexandre Revoredo and fitness trainer Eduardo Parreira, Arrows possess a dangerous combination of skill, pace and physical strength.

The Durban team’s spine is particularly strong, with striker Richard Henyekane scoring six goals in all competitions, and rising Bafana Bafana defensive midfielder Kagisho Dikgacoi perhaps the best player in the PSL. Skilful forward Abia Nale will have created a good deal of Henyekane’s goals, and wide players such as Philani Shange and Njabulo Manqana interchange with the strikers in a fluid approach.

Arrows’ attacking creativity is built on the stability offered by central defenders Siyabonga Sangweni and Musa Bilankulu, with the Bafana prospects having formed a good understanding over the past two seasons.

Arrows have been consistent performers in their seven seasons in the PSL without winning silverware, and this could be their season. United, though, will know that at full strength, as shown by their four-match unbeaten start, they can match any team in the league.

* Tickets are available from the club offices in Victoria Road until noon and at the ground (open stand R20, grandstand R30). School pupils in uniform go in free.

Today: Maritzburg United vs Lamontville Golden Arrows (Woodburn Stadium, 3.30 pm), Platinum Stars vs Santos (Mmabatho Stadium, 7.30 pm)

PSL STANDINGS

P W D L F A Pts

SuperSport 6 4 1 1 12 4 13

Wits 6 4 1 1 6 2 13

Sundowns 6 3 1 2 10 8 10

Ajax 6 3 1 2 8 7 10

Arrows 5 2 3 0 8 5 9

Chiefs 6 3 0 3 9 7 9

Swallows 6 2 2 2 10 8 8

Mburg Utd 5 2 2 1 6 9 8

P Stars 5 2 1 2 6 5 7

Santos 5 2 1 2 6 6 7

Thanda 6 2 1 3 7 8 7

Bay Utd 6 2 1 3 7 11 7

Pirates 6 1 3 2 3 5 6

AmaZulu 6 2 0 4 4 9 6

FS Stars 6 1 2 3 4 7 5

Celtic 6 0 2 4 3 8 2

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