Quarterback will be critical

2012-11-20 00:00

PSL action resumes at Harry Gwala stadium tonight where Maritzburg United will look to continue their remarkable start to the season with victory over SuperSport United.

Anyone who witnessed Maritzburg’s 2-0 cup loss to SuperSport at the same venue on November 2, will know that the Team of Choice are up against it tonight, but coach Ernst Middendorp has demonstrated the perfect balance of consistency and flexibility in team and formation selection so far this season to ensure that his side have remained competitive, regardless of the opposition.

The fact that SuperSport are struggling and eight points behind Maritzburg on the PSL log shows what a phenomenal start it’s been for Middendorp’s charges, but the coach is all too aware of the difficulties his side will face tonight.

“They [SuperSport] have had a tough time — struggling in the league and knocked out of the cup,” Middendorp told The Witness yesterday. “They will come at us and attack to try and get the win and get their season back on track.”

Middendorp confirmed that he had not yet decided on his starting lineup or his formation for tonight’s clash, but the coach’s movements in recent weeks suggest that there are many options available.

In the 1-0 win over Golden Arrows last weekend, Middendorp stunned everyone by employing three centre backs, two wing backs and Ruben Cloete in holding midfield in a move that gave his side pace on the flanks through Thabang Matuka and goal scorer that day Rheece Evans.

With regular right back Peter Petersen ruled out of tonight’s clash with a bruised hip and Byrone Hendricks doubtful after picking up a knock at training on Saturday, indications are that Middendorp may continue with the personnel who got the job done in Umlazi.

“Losing Byrone would be a massive blow in terms of flexibility [Hendricks can play in central midfield, central defence or right back],” the coach said. “But I will still need to assess some players before making up my mind; it is possible that we will go the same way we did in Durban [against Arrows].”

One thing Maritzburg will need desperately tonight is a holding midfielder, who is able to do more than simply break down attacks. Ball retention and competent buildup play will be key to the home side’s chances, and with Cloete, Michael Morton, Delron Buckley, Ryan de Jongh and Philani Zulu all potentials to fill the quarterback role, it will be interesting to see who the coach tasks with keeping things ticking over.

Middendorp will also be serving the second of his two-match touchline ban tonight for the red card he picked up against Bloemfontein Celtic, but he remains adamant that his absence from the field will not impact on his side’s performance.

“We always prepare for our games in writing and everybody is on the same page as me going into any match,” he said. “There is very detailed information and everybody knows my thinking. We have already identified the options for every situation in the game and I don’t see it being a handicap for us. It wasn’t in Durban and it won’t be tomorrow [tonight].”

With Buckley featuring for 15 minutes for Bafana Bafana in midweek, Middendorp can rest easy knowing that his key man will be fresh for tonight after what he felt was a solid performance from his player against Zambia. “I thought that he had some very good touches,” Middendorp said of Buckley’s first international appearance since 2008. “But then, what can you really do in 15 minutes?

“He loves being a part of the national setup and he is committed. I have told him not to put pressure on himself and just to enjoy it. It is a great achievement for him being selected again.”

• Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

You can follow @LloydBurnard and @WitnessKZN on Twitter for live feeds of tonight’s action from Harry Gwala.

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