No easy game this time

2012-02-25 00:00

MARITZBURG United will have fond memories of their last encounter with Orlando Pirates, but tomorrow’s trip to Soweto remains a daunting task for coach Ernst Middendorp’s men.

United beat the PSL champions in this season’s first round of PSL fixtures at the Harry Gwala stadium when late goals from Diyo Sibisi and Mor Diouf cancelled out an earlier strike by Benni McCarthy, who was sent off in that game on the stroke of half time.

Tomorrow’s fixture promises to be more difficult though, with United looking to recover from a disappointing 2-0 home defeat to Ajax Cape Town last weekend. That result has left United in 11th place on the table, six points behind Bloemfontein Celtic, who currently occupy United’s desired eighth place.

Pirates will start tomorrow’s clash buoyant after a thrilling game in midweek saw the Buccaneers score three second-half goals to beat Platinum Stars away from home 4-3. McCarthy scored the last of the goals and will be the main threat to United’s defence tomorrow.

Good news for United fans is that Nigerian winger Felix Obada will return from suspension and offer some much-needed attacking diversity. With United failing to find the back of the net in their first two matches under Middendorp, Obada is likely to walk straight into the starting lineup with JB Ncubeni the most likely candidate to miss out.

The only player unavailable for Middendorp remains Calvin Sosibo, who continues to recover from snapped cruciate ligaments and is not expected to play again this season. There was a concern that striker Diyo Sibisi, who is the club’s leading scorer with six league goals this term, would miss out with an ear infection but after being rested two days, Sibisi is likely to start tomorrow.

United looked compact against Ajax in the first half of last weekend’s meeting and will consider themselves unlucky not to have scored after countless chances in the first period.

But the record books don’t paint an optimistic picture. In addition to Pirates being undefeated at home so far this season, United have yet to defeat the Buccaneers in Soweto in five attempts.

The odds are certainly stacked up against United, but Middendorp and his charges will be desperate to come home with something.

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 3.30 pm and will be televised on SuperSport 4.

• sport@witness.co.za

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