Buckley likely to join United for Telkom clash against high riding Stars

2013-10-04 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s injury crisis is still very much an issue ahead of Sunday’s Telkom Knock-out first-round tie away to Platinum Stars, but there was a shining light yesterday with the news that playmaker Delron Buckley appears set to start his first game of the season.

The 35-year-old has been struggling with a back strain since June, but coach Ernst Middendorp confirmed yesterday that indications are that Buckley would be fit and ready to go against the newly crowned MTN8 champions.

“We have had him for three full training sessions for the first time this season,” the coach said.

Buckley’s inclusion would be good news for United, considering that many of the players on the injury list are attacking options for the Team of Choice.

The unavailability of striker Mohamed Yakubu, attacking midfielder Ashley Hartog and winger Heini Isaacks severely limit United’s firepower going forward, while David Booysen and Nhlanhla Vilakazi are also out.

“If you look at how much he contributed last season, it was always him [Buckley] and Cuthbert [Malajila] involved in making things happen, so he is very important for us.”

With Malajila now at Sundowns, the problem that immediately jumps out is up front, where Yakubu is United’s main man.

But Middendorp confirmed that he is likely to turn to new signings Thokozani Sekotlong and Ayanda Nkosi, with Nkosi playing just behind Sekotlong.

“They have both been very impressive. They are young but they have shown good signs in the games they have played,” said Middendorp.

Nkosi’s inclusion in United’s win over Mpumalanga Black Aces on September 18 proved to be a masterstroke from Middendorp, with the 20-year-old scoring within his first four minutes of PSL football. But how the youngster adapts to being called upon in a big game remains to be seen, and with United’s problems in front of goal well documented this season, his role will be crucial on Sunday.

Turning his attention to Stars, Middendorp was full of praise and said that the North West Province side deserved all of the accolades currently coming their way.

“If you look at their cup [MTN8] win and their league position [sixth], it is clear that they are the current champions of South Africa. They are the team of the moment,” said Middendorp.

“Their strength is in their unity. They are a group of players who have been together a long time. They are also handling the big match moments very well.”

But, regardless of United going into Sunday as underdogs, Middendorp fancies his chances.

“They have confidence and we know this,” he said. “We need to accept it as a challenge and then we will have a chance.”

Sunday’s match kicks off at 3 pm.

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