Crunch time for United tonight

2009-05-05 00:00

AFTER all the toil, the highs and the lows, Maritzburg United’s season comes to a crux in their Premier Soccer League meeting against Free State Stars at Woodburn Stadium tonight.

United coach Gordon Igesund has called for the team’s fans to pack the stadium, and a party atmosphere will prevail should the home team achieve a victory that will guarantee their position in the PSL for another season.

United’s management, however, have not shown the confidence of the African National Congress by organising a victory party, or any special festivities, for tonight’s game ahead of its conclusion.

And with good reason. Stars have lost just one match in 2009 and have been the form team along with leaders SuperSport United and second-placed Orlando Pirates in the second half of the season. Under Steve Khompela, Stars have won eight and drawn five of their last 14 games.

This could be one of United’s toughest challenges at Woodburn yet. The PMB team, though, have faced other stern tests at home in the second half of the season and prevailed, including a 2-0 victory over then second-placed Ajax Cape Town in January that started Ajax’s poor run in form that culminated in coach Craig Rosslee resigning this week.

This was followed by four wins out of six at Woodburn that see United favoured to avoid the second-last play-off position ahead of 14th-placed Bloemfontein Celtic and 15th-placed Thanda Royal Zulu.

This, along with the increasingly assured manner in which United have bossed teams at home, will see them confident of overcoming Stars, though it could be a nailbiter.

“Mathematically Pirates can still win the league, and mathematically we can go into the playoff place,” United coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday. “But the positive signs were there on Saturday when we beat Moroka Swallows 2-1, where the guys were outstanding and really looked nice and strong.

“There’s no reason why we can’t get the result against Stars even though they’re lying fourth in the league. They’re a difficult, hard-running team, but we want to finish this thing off. We don’t want to wait until the last game.”

United’s wing play improved dramatically from recent games in Saturday night’s home win against Swallows and it has been a feature of the season that when they have attacked strongly down the flanks the PMB team have generally won.

The Team of Choice have Fanyana Dhladhla back from suspension, but with the strength of Tony Tsabedze and Sipho Mngomezulu in the last game, Igesund might opt to leave the skilful winger on the bench as an impact player.

United have Collen Zimba and Peter Petersen suspended, but a full squad otherwise.

Kickoff is 7.30 pm and not 8 pm as stated in The Witness yesterday.

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