Team of Choice aim for top eight

2010-02-02 00:00

A MARITZBURG United side for whom a month-long training period under coach Ernst Middendorp could turn out to be a crucial factor in their favour return to Premier Soccer League action with their fixture against Jomo Cosmos at the Rand Stadium today.

United showed steady progress under Middendorp in the coach’s first nine games after replacing Gordon Igesund in November.

The PMB team would have gone into the month-long break for the African Nations Cup in ninth if they had put away their chances in their final game at Woodburn Stadium against Moroka Swallows at the end of December.

Instead United drew 1-1 and resume the league, which has just six matches left, in 11th place on 27 points.

When Middendorp joined the team, he was faced with a programme that mostly saw United playing two games a week. Now the coach has had a month to work with the side and the results of this could be beneficial as United aim to finish as high as possible.

Goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters said yesterday: “You could see under Ernst by the last three or four games we were playing good football already. So after a month I’m sure we’ll be in even better condition and have a better understanding.”

Walters, on loan from Bloemfontein Celtic since halfway through the season, has added stability in the troublesome position between the posts for United. The goalkeeper knows from experience the sort of fighting mentality that will be prevailing at last-placed Cosmos.

“We not only expect Cosmos to come out fighting, but there could also be some dodgy refereeing in the last six matches — it’s happened in the past. So it’s also about being careful about back-chatting the referee and watching your tackles.

“I know from experience of having fought relegation myself at Celtic last season how much teams fight in the last six games. It’s like a wounded dog, and it starts from the attitude in the change room, and that’s what we have to expect from Cosmos.

“But I believe we have the better team on paper and we have to make that count.”

Walters said it will be the mid-table teams who show greater consistency in the final straight of the PSL who will finish in the top eight.

“The most important thing is you have to win games back to back — you can’t be inconsistent. It’s the teams that win two or three games in a row that will jump a lot of places.

“We [United] have one of the best programmes in our first three games back, against Cosmos away, then Arrows at home, then Aces away.

“It will be crucial do well in those games if we want to finish in the top half.”

As could be expected, Cosmos made a few new signings during the December transfer window in an attempt to turn around a disastrous campaign for Jomo Sono’s team.

Among these, former Thanda Royal Zulu forward Katlego Loke stands out, and should make more impact than ex-Bay United defender Asanda Mvalo and striker Norman Smith from Maritzburg.

United will be looking to hit the ground running on their return to action today, and set themselves up for their first game back at the newly renovated Harry Gwala Stadium against Lamontville Golden Arrows on Saturday (8.15 pm).

Today’s game will be broadcast delayed on SABC1 at midnight.

Today: Jomo Cosmos v Maritzburg United (Rand Stadium, 3.30 pm), Golden Arrows v AmaZulu (Chatsworth Stadium, 7.30 pm — SuperSport Blitz), Ajax Cape Town v Platinum Stars (Athlone Stadium, 7.30 pm), Moroka Swallows v Kaizer Chiefs (Johannesburg Stadium, 8 pm SuperSport 4)

PSL log in FootballDiski on page 17.

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