Coach Larsen not in panic mode yet after another loss by United

2013-11-29 00:00

MARITZBURG United coach Clinton Larsen is not pushing the panic button yet after his side went down by 1-0 after a strong showing against Orlando Pirates at Harry Gwala Stadium on Wednesday night.

The defeat meant The Team of Choice have now lost three games in a row, and Larsen, who replaced German Ernst Middendorp earlier this season, is still to taste victory at home having also gone down to SuperSport United and Platinum Stars.

But the new coach, who joined the club in the midst of an injury crisis with nine players out, told The Witness that he knew this was going to be a challenging period. “We’ve been getting better as more players returned and now we have only three players [out] in Ashley Hartog, Robyn Johannes and Nhlanhla Vilakazi,” he said.

Larsen said everyone at the club was disappointed by the result, especially as they had the Soweto giants on the ropes for large parts of the game.

“We made one mistake in midfield and they scored. Shu-Aib Walters never had to make a save after that.

“We’ve been seeing the performances lately, but we need the results,” Larsen said, before praising his players for neutralising the Buccaneers for most of the game.

He bemoaned the fact that, once again, his side created the chances, but failed to turn them into goals.

“We had four or five opportunities to score and we didn’t take one. That is a bitter pill to swallow.”

With three games to go until the Christmas break, the coach hoped one of his strikers would put their hand up, but he did not rule out going into the transfer market in search of a striker once the window opened in January.

“That’s the normal thing to do, not just in South Africa, but around the world, that if your strikers are not performing, you go into the market to look for an alternative. With the games coming up, we hope that one of them can put their hands up, but they haven’t done that so far this season.”

United’s last three games before the Christmas break are by no means easy.

On Friday next week they head to Cape Town to take on a resurgent Ajax Cape Town, then welcome Bidvest Wits to Pietermaritzburg the following Friday, before ending the year with a tough away trip to Loftus Versfeld to take on log leaders Mamelodi Sundowns on December 18.

Larsen said: “At the halfway stage, we were looking to be sitting on 21 points as it would have been half of what we were looking for. We’re sitting on 12, and we’re going to be short on that target. We are now looking to finish in the late teens.”

A plus for United was the performance of skipper Michael Morton. Playing against the club he played for as a youngster, the midfielder put in a top shift to outplay Xabi Alonso’s tormentor Andile Jali and walked away with the man-of-the-match award.

“Michael’s an important part of the team. He led by example. He gave his all and left everything on the field out there and he was deservedly rewarded with the man-of-the-match award after the game,” Larsen said of the committed skipper who played parts of the game limping.

“Hopefully he can keep that form going into the next couple of games, and it rubs off on all of the players,” added the coach.

The result sees United drop two positions down the log to 10th with 12 points from 12 games. Pirates, who played only their fourth game in the league, remained at the bottom of the table in 16th.

• lunga.biyela@witness.co.za

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