Injuries leave United wanting

2008-10-28 00:00

AFTER a staggered start, the Premier Soccer League, as SuperSport United coach Gavin Hunt puts it, “gets down to business” and the champions want to maintain their lead with a win over Maritzburg United in Atteridgeville tonight.

After playing just four fixtures in the first two months, all PSL teams have 10 matches in the next two months before the league breaks for 20 days over Christmas and New Year.

United kick off this period with the daunting task of travelling to the Super Stadium just outside Pretoria to take on the league champions with a reduced squad for the first time this season.

The most notable absentee is striker Fadlu Davids, who underwent reconstructive surgery yesterday for the broken nose he suffered in a sickening clash of heads with Free State Stars goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene in United’s 2-0 Telkom Knockout defeat on Sunday.

Visited by The Witness at Midlands Medical Centre in East Street, Davids was in high spirits despite obvious discomfort and swelling. He said his only disappointment is at being out of action for his team.

“I think I will be out for about a month,” Davids said.

It was not the first time the striker has been photographed by The Witness with head injuries.

Soon after joining the team in January 2007, Davids had his eyebrow cut open in his debut against AmaZulu, where he scored a brace and finished the match heavily bandaged. Last season in the First Division, Davids played one game with a face mask, again with a broken nose.

His commitment up-front, shown by the manner in which he threw himself into a challenge with Mweene even with his team 2-0 down in injury time, will be sorely missed.

Other absentees are suspended left-back Elias Ngwepe, injured defender Gary Goldstone and midfielders Sam Ndlovu and Tony Tsabedze, who are both ex-SuperSport players and bound in their contracts from being fielded against their old team.

“It’s a great opportunity for a few of the other players to get a look in,” United coach Gordon Igesund said yesterday. “I’ve said from the beginning that I have a 24-man squad and every player is capable of playing for the first team. This is a chance for players like Tico-Tico Bucuane, Lebohang Kukame, Collen Zimba and Peter Petersen.

“The problem is that Gary Goldstone would have been the ideal candidate to fill in at left-back for Ngwepe, so I have to decide who I will play out of position.”

SuperSport’s Hunt said he expects a tough game from United, who are still unbeaten in the league. The champions have been the pace-setters again this season and are two points ahead of the fourth-placed PMB team.

“Maritzburg have had a good start, just like we have,” Hunt told The Witness. “And now the league really gets down to business. In the next two months we have 10 games to play, and now we see what teams are really made of.”

Under ultra-competitive Hunt, SuperSport are the kind of team who can grind out 1-0 victories when things aren’t going their way. Their strength in depth is displayed by headline signing Anthony Laffor and defender Bongani Khumalo, who Hunt threatened to leave the club over if the players were sold to Europe, sitting on the bench.

United’s return to the PSL has so far been something of a fairytale for a new-look team. But it will take a supreme effort and a gutsy display by a patched-up side to maintain their unbeaten league record tonight.

Today: Lamontville Golden Arrows vs Thanda Royal Zulu (King Zwelithini, 3.30 pm), AmaZulu vs Ajax Cape Town (Princess Magogo, 3,30 pm), Bloemfontein Celtic vs Kaizer Chiefs (Seisa Ramabodu, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Orlando Pirates vs Moroka Swallows (Ellis Park, 7.30 pm), Bay United vs Platinum Stars (EPRU Stadium, 7.30 pm), Supersport United vs Maritzburg United (Super Stadium, 7.30 pm), Wits University vs Mamelodi Sundowns (Olympia Park, 7.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Santos vs Free State Stars (Athlone Stadium, 7.30 pm)

Maritzburg United’s programme until the Christmas break:

Tonight: vs Supersport United (Away); Wednesday, November 5: vs Lamontville Golden Arrows (Home); November 12: vs Wits University (A); November 16: vs Platinum Stars (H); November 21: vs Santos (A); November 26: vs Bay United (H); December 06: vs Free State Stars (A); December 14: vs Orlando Pirates (H); December 17: vs Mamelodi Sundowns (A); December 21: vs Thanda Royal Zulu (H)

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