Injury-hit United glad to draw with Tuks

2013-09-02 00:00

MARITZBURG United coach Ernst Middendorp was happy to earn a point from their Premier Soccer League game against the University of Pretoria at Harry Gwala Stadium at the weekend.

Both teams could have snatched the three points, but AmaTuks were the better team through most of a game that must surely have given Middendorp a headache after losing star midfielder Delron Buckley to an injury.

Buckley, who came on in the beginning of the second half, had an immediate impact on the game, and the Team of Choice started to look on top with him on the park.

But Middendorp’s gamble to bring on Buckley, who has been struggling with a back injury, didn’t pay off and the veteran former Bafana Bafana midfielder was pulled off after being on the field for only 20 minutes.

But, after being beaten 2-0 by Free State Stars in the midweek game, Middendorp was happy with the point.

“I think it a very positive point for us,” United’s German mentor said after the game that could have gone either way.

“We have to be realistic. We could not expect any more from this game,” he said.

In three league games this term, United have only scored one goal, and the coach was frustrated by new hitman Mohammed Yakubu being compared to the club’s top scorer last season, Cuthbert Malajila who joined big-spending Mamelodi Sundowns.

Two of the club’s new signings in Nhlanhla Vilakazi and Ashley Hartog have so far not played due to injury, which has left them short of attacking options, adding to pressure on Yakubu .

With this coming weekend being a Fifa week, United’s next game is two weeks away, and it is a tough trip to Johannesburg to take on league champions Kaizer Chiefs.

Middendorp has previously stated he should have Hartog available, which would give them more options in attack.

The coach felt that although they were struggling, they would prepare for the game as they would for any other team.

“We will not look at the problems of other teams,” he said.

By October, he said things would look much better for them when they have all of their players available for selection.

For AmaTuks, they have to avoid the “second season curse” after they lost their first two league games of the season having finished in the top eight in the previous one.

But coach Steve Barker said he was happy with the improved performance of his charges after the game.

“I felt unlucky not to get more out of the game, but I need to work with what I have got,” Barker said.

Like Middendorp, he felt that with more players available — two are awaiting work permits — they would become a “very difficult side to play”.

“We would like to emulate what we did last season,” he said.

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