It’s make or break for United as they face Stars tonight

2014-03-11 00:00

MARITZBURG United will take a major step towards PSL safety if they beat strugglers Free State Stars in tonight’s only league encounter at Harry Gwala Stadium.

It is a match that has the potential to make or break United’s season. Victory will see them move six points clear of Stars, who occupy 15th place on the PSL table and the dreaded promotion/relegation play-off spot. Victory will also see coach Steve Komphela’s outfit move six points clear of safety with 10 rounds of fixtures remaining.

The match has the potential to be an emotional evening for Komphela, who was Stars’ manager between 2008 and 2009 and then again between 2010 and 2013. In that time, Komphela built up a reputation for himself as one of the best man-managers in the country, and indeed one of our more well-versed students of the modern game.

But the enormity of tonight’s match and its importance to the Team of Choice’s ambitions far outweighs any personal storylines, says Komphela.

“For people who are very immature, it is going to be very emotional,” he told The Witness yesterday. “Our aim is to get the victory on the day. The rest of the sideshows are not important to me.”

Komphela did concede that his intimate knowledge of Stars and the players would stand United in good stead tonight. “I think it will. From what I have seen, not much has changed since I left,” he said. “If anything, they have abandoned a few philosophies that were working for the club. We are very focused on ourselves, and we are confident that we will get a result.”

There are also a couple of selection woes for Komphela, the biggest being the unavailability of his influential play-maker Kurt Lentjies (suspension) and lanky centre back Mario Booysen (injury), who has been ever-present for United this season. Wingers Dillon Sheppard and Heni­rich Isaacks will also miss out through injury but there are possible returns for Ashley Hartog and Nhlanhla Vilakazi after the pair played all 90 minutes in a midweek friendly behind closed doors.

“He [Lentjies] has great influence moving forward and he has bought into our attacking philosophy,” the coach said of Lentjies’s unavailability. “But hopefully whoever we bring in takes his opportunity to make that position his own.”

This is the first of three straight home matches for United over the next eight days — all tasty affairs in their own right. After tonight’s clash, United host AmaZulu in the KZN derby before former coach Ernst Middendorp returns to Harry Gwala Stadium with Bloemfontein Celtic next Wednesday.

“The gods have been smiling on us. You never have a situation at this crucial stage in the season when you get given four home matches [United beat Swallows at home in their last outing] in a row,” said Komphela. “We have to take advantage of that and ensure that we get out of the relegation zone.”

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

Tickets for the clash, including a range of specials for the next three matches, can be purchased at any of the following outlets:

• Maritzburg United offices (397 Victoria Road, Pietermaritzburg).

• Supersave Supermarket (Retief Street, Pietermaritzburg).

• OK Mini Market (College Road, Pietermaritzburg).

• OK Mini Market (Edendale Road, Pietermaritzburg).

• Shoprite Checkers and Computicket outlets nationally.

Tickets are R40 for adults and R10 for kids.

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