Birds desparate to starve off relegation

2011-02-12 00:00

MOROKA Swallows’ coup signing of Bafana Bafana defensive midfielder Macbeth Sibaya has bolstered the Birds ahead of tonight’s crunch relegation battle fixture against Maritzburg United at Dobsonville Stadium.

Sibaya, returning to South Africa after seven seasons spent with Rubin Kazan in Russia, was poached by the Birds ahead of interested parties Mamelodi Sundowns and SuperSport United.

Since his arrival in December, Swallows coach Gordon Igesund has made some astute signings, four from Sundowns.

Vuyo Mere and James Mayinga were brought in to help shore up a leaky defence. Left and right wingers Tshepo Ramokala and Koketso Mmotong, and striker Bradley Ritson from AmaZulu, have bolstered an attack that had been overly reliant on veteran Siyabonga Nomvethe.

Now Sibaya, with a wealth of experience gained playing in the Russian Premier League, the Champions League, and two World Cups among his 52 caps for Bafana, adds significant KwaZulu-Natal-bred beef to the Birds’ midfield.

The Hammarsdale-reared defensive midfielder may be about to start winding down his career, but Sibaya has still played a key role for Bafana over the past two years.

But have Igesund’s signings come too little too late for the Birds?

Tonight’s crucial match could go a long way in deciding that come reckoning day.

Currently there is a seven-point gap between 14th-placed United and Swallows, who are in the 15th position in which a team goes into a play-off at the end of the season with the second-to-fourth-placed First Division sides.

Win tonight and the Birds will have reduced the gap to four points, with a game in hand.

Similarly, United will be all too aware that should they manage to somehow cast off the horrendous finishing that has cost the team so many points and pull off a win, they would have extended their lead over Swallows to 10 points with 10 games to go.

Striker Diyo Sibisi, scorer of five goals this season but also the culprit of many of United’s misses in front of goal, said the Birds’ desperation will make them difficult opponents.

“It will be suicidal for us to judge Swallows on their previous results,” Sibisi said. “The fact that they are seven points behind us is what could cause problems.

“Obviously they are coming into this game with their guns blazing, because they want to reduce a point gap between the two teams.”

United have a full squad available.

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