Still work to do for United

2009-05-01 00:00

MARITZBURG United have done all the hard work in trying to save relegation, but there is just that little bit left to do as the Team of Choice take on Moroka Swallows at Woodburn Stadium in tonight’s Premier Soccer League encounter.

Swallows were the team United managed a 1-1 draw against in their final match of the 2005/06 season to scrape clear of relegation by a point, and the Pietermaritzburg side are hoping this time round things don’t have to come down to the last day as the Birds once again have some sway in United’s survival chances.

After winning three league games in a row, and going on a five-match league and cup winning streak, United’s sights were set on the top eight. But inconsistency has crept in again and now the PMB team will aim for a place in lower mid-table should they manage victories in their last three matches.

United play Free State Stars at Woodburn on Wednesday night then finish their season against Thanda Royal Zulu in Hammarsdale on Saturday, and will want to be clear of relegation rather than face a desperate last game against the team currently in second-last place.

So a victory for Gordon Igesund’s team over Julio Cesar Leal’s potentially tough though erratic Swallows seems essential. United’s form at home has been strong in the second half of the season, with victories engineered through dedication and tactical discipline, combined with a hint of attacking flair. They will need more of the same tonight.

The Birds generally keep things tight until they have a lead, though have a tendency to go to pieces somewhat after going behind, and United will have to work at their normal high home tempo to engineer a breakthrough.

With both Collen Zimba and Fanyana Dhladhla out suspended thanks to United’s continued poor disciplinary record, the PMB team will be without two of their more penetrative players. The onus will fall on Tony Tsabedze on the left and Sipho Mngomezulu on the right to provide more penetration on the wings than United have enjoyed in recent games, and a better service to strikers Fadlu Davids and Brice Aka.

As seems to almost perennially be the case, the Birds have a long injury list at the moment, though a few players resumed training this week including winger Morgan Shivambu and striker Phumelele Bhengu.

Striker Sandile Ndlovu — who has found his form at Swallows this season after a patchy period in his career that began when he returned to his home city to play for United two seasons ago — will be the Birds’ danger man with his physical presence, strength in the air and powerful shooting ability.

Lefa Ttsutsulupa is the player who makes Swallows tick in central midfield, and the defensive midfielder’s consistently robust performances have earned him a few Bafana Bafana caps under Joel Santana recently. It will take a big display by United’s John Arwuah to wrestle control of central midfield from the dreadlocked Swallows dynamo.

Should Swallows sit back at the beginning of the game then it will be up to United full-backs Peter Petersen and Elias Ngwepe to get forward and make up the numbers in attack.

United are four points from saving relegation, with three games to go, which is a relatively healthy situation. Four points from two games would be far less comfortable, and the Team of Choice will make life much easier for themselves with a victory tonight.

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