PSL relegation struggle adds needle to Cup clash with Swallows

2011-03-11 00:00

THEY are locked in a fight-to-the-death relegation battle in the league, so tonight’s Nedbank Cup match between Maritzburg United and Moroka Swallows at Harry Gwala Stadium might be important from a mere one-upmanship perspective.

The PSL teams begin their fight for the year-end Nedbank Cup with this weekend’s first round, and tonight’s game is one of four that pitches sides from the top-flight against each other.

Tomorrow Free State Stars host Ajax Cape Town at Goble Park in Bethlehem and Bloemfontein Celtic face Platinum Stars at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium.

Undoubtedly the star attraction match of the round is tomorrow night’s clash between Orlando Pirates and Mamelodi Sundowns at Orlando Stadium. On Sunday Wits University face Santos.

Despite giving its competitors some respite from the pressure of a league relegation battle, tonight’s match might have some needle to it.

It sees former Maritzburg coach Gordon Igesund pitched against his successor at the PMB team, Ernst Middendorp.

With just three points between third-last United and second-last Swallows there is, of course, the issue of who will survive in the league this season and a win tonight could boost the victors psychologically.

Middendorp, too, complained that refereeing decisions against his team in a crucial league victory to Swallows earlier this year had cost Maritzburg.

The United coach, who on the past weekend offered for the club to fire him so despondent was he at the performance of his team for most of their late fight-back 2-2 draw against Vasco Da Gama, said his approach remains the same for league and cup matches.

“It’s the same thing — we won’t do anything differently,” Middendorp said.

Underachieving United have some exciting attacking players but poor finishing and lower quality of defence have let them down this season.

The arrival of German import Christian Alder, who had a nightmare against Vasco, albeit after suffering from food poisoning in the days before the match, has so far done little to beef up a shaky back four.

But the home team will relish having been drawn at home for tonight’s cup game, which is an opportunity to improve their form in front of goal in lesser pressure situation.

“We’re happy to play a team like Swallows, but for us the big thing was getting a home draw,” said United captain Shu-aib Walters.

“We were also happy to avoid the likes of Pirates, Chiefs and Sundowns after what happened to us in the Telkom Knockout semi-final [against Pirates],” said Walters, in a cheeky reference to a game in November that was controversially moved from Harry Gwala Stadium to Chatsworth.

For Igesund, some strong signings have worked well for the four-time league winner since joining a desperate Swallows before Christmas.

The coach, though, will miss the most influential of those additions tonight, goal-scoring winger Koketso Mmotong.

Igesund said even striker Lerato Chabangu, who had much-reported disciplinary problems before leaving Mamelodi Sundowns for the Birds, has been showing good signs of progress.

“In fact, I feel all players that we have brought in since I arrived here have been doing well,” the coach said. “Koketso Mmotong has been unfortunate to pick up an injury and will be out for about three to four weeks, while Tshepo Ramokala has also just returned from injury.

“Since Macbeth Sibaya got here he has played in all the games for us, but I will definitely be giving him a break this weekend when we play Maritzburg,” Igesund said.

For United, Rudolf Bester has a niggling injury which he has to overcome this week, while Chilis Madondo is suspended.

Tonight: Maritzburg United v Moroka Swallows (Harry Gwala Stadium, 8 pm – live on SuperSport 4)

Tomorrow: Mpumalanga Black Aces v Hanover Park (Puma Rugby Stadium, 3 pm), Amajuba United Killers FC v Vasco Da Gama (Arbor Park Stadium, 3 pm), Free State Stars v Ajax Cape Town (Goble Park Stadium, 3 pm), BTX Liverpool v Blackburn Rovers (Griffon Stadium, 3 pm), Bloemfontein Celtic v Platinum Stars (Seisa Ramabodu Stadium, 8.15 pm), Orlando Pirates v Mamelodi Sundowns (Orlando Stadium, 8.15 pm)

Sunday: United FC v Future Tigers FC (Botshabelo Stadium, 3 pm), Witbank Spurs v Chippa United (Puma Rugby Stadium, 3 pm), Wits University v Santos (Milpark, 3 pm), Carara Kicks v Cullinan FC Goble Park Stadium, 3 pm), Nathi Lions v Kaizer Chiefs

(King Zwelithini Stadium, 3 pm)

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