Race for top eight getting desperate

2013-04-30 00:00

MARITZBURG United have three tough fixtures remaining in their bid to secure a top eight league finish for the first time in their history.

After their 1-0 loss to Moroka Swallows on Friday night, United travel to Rustenburg to take on title contenders Platinum Stars tomorrow night.

Coach Ernst Middendorp’s charges know that from now on every match and every available point has mammoth significance, with eight clubs all fighting for five of the top eight positions that are still wide open. But Middendorp says there will be no added pressure on him or his player in the league’s final stretch.

“We have had pressure before. Every game has been pressure. It [the league] has been close for a long time now,” the coach told The Witness on his way back to Pietermaritzburg from Johannesburg yesterday. “We have the experience in the squad, and if we want to be successful, then we will have to deal with it.”

Middendorp attended Sunday’s clash between Kaizer Chiefs and Stars to study the opposition.

“They [Stars] are very dangerous from set-pieces and are a very settled, united force,” Middendorp said, making particular mention of the threats posed by Benson Mhlongo and Thuso Phala. “We will have to be at our very best.”

United do have a few worries in terms of available players ahead of tomorrow night’s clash. Centre back Mohamed Awal is out because of a yellow card he picked up against Swallows, while striker Cuthbert Malajila and playmaker Delron Buckley are “50/50” injury doubts for the clash. They are three of United’s most important players. While there is nothing that can be done about Awal’s suspension, Buckley [foot] and Malajila [knee] picked up knocks against Swallows, and United’s medical staff will be working hard to get ready in time after .

“It is difficult at this stage to say just how bad they [the injuries] are,” said Middendorp. “I will know more when I get back to Pietermaritzburg and we will make a decision later.”

Tomorrow night’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be televised on SABC 1.

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