Can United finally find killer instinct against improving Usuthu?

2011-02-02 00:00

IT’S the big question that will be on the minds of Maritzburg United as they prepare to take on AmaZulu in a Premier Soccer League game at Harry Gwala Stadium tonight — can this team finally develop a killer instinct?

It is almost exactly seven months since Maritzburg began their campaign against Usuthu at Moses Mabhida Stadium. That 3-2 defeat, thanks to a 90th minute winner from dangerous AmaZulu forward Ayanda Dlamini, set the tone for United’s season so far.

A Maritzburg team that did not have a settled look to it lost their next two matches. There were signs of the team’s potential in draws at home against Kaizer Chiefs and away against Platinum Stars, before finally notching that first victory of the season in their sixth match, 1-0 against Swallows at Harry Gwala.

Having also reached the Telkom Knockout semi-finals with a quarter-final victory over Mamelodi Sundowns, things appeared to be looking up.

Unfortunately, though, when United have looked up they have mostly tripped over their next opponents.

A 3-0 defeat of Ajax Cape Town last month was followed by a defeat by the same margin by Lamontville Golden Arrows, and Saturday night’s 3-1 loss against title-chasing Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium.

In between all this there was a bizarre 2-0 home defeat to Free State Stars where United could have won 4-2 had they taken their chances — three points missed out on that would have made all the difference in the PMB side’s effort to break free of the last three.

A talented team have flattered to deceive, but if there is to be a turning point in United’s season then it must surely come in their next six matches.

On the surface, AmaZulu at home, Bloemfontein Celtic (home on Saturday), Swallows (away), Platinum Stars (home), SuperSport United (away) and Santos (home) is about as appealing a six-match run as Maritzburg have had this season. But can the Team of Choice capitalise?

Their defeat against Chiefs was encouraging in that the scoreline easily flattered Amakhosi, with Maritzburg missing a penalty, hitting the post and having a goal debatably disallowed for offside.

That, along with a shaky central defence, has largely been the story of the season. United have largely been unfortunate in front of goal and in refereeing decisions, but you write your own luck and now Maritzburg will hope to begin crafting a more successful script for their season.

Not that any of their next six games will be easy against a mixture of teams fighting relegation, pushing for a place in the top five or with similar top eight aspirations as United’s.

AmaZulu, as the first case in point, after a slow start under new coach Manqoba Mngqithi, appear to be starting to find their groove under the coach’s attacking philosophy.

Usuthu beat Swallows 4-0 in their last away fixture. And after never beating United in four seasons, AmaZulu have won their last two games against their PMB neighbours — a Nedbank Cup tie last season and in this campaign’s league opener.

Maritzburg this season have been at their best under lights (with night games conducive to coach Ernst Middendorp’s high-tempo gameplan) and in front of their own supporters.

Whether United can begin to make that count in the form of tangible results will be answered tonight.

The PMB team have central defender Byron Hendricks back from suspension, while midfielder Kurt Lentjies and full-back David Booysen are suspended.

Kickoff: 7.30 pm.

 

 

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