Team of Choice in unfamiliar top-of-the-table clash against Platinum Stars

2012-11-30 00:00

PREPARATIONS for Tuesday night’s PSL clash against the in-form Platinum Stars at Harry Gwala stadium are going well, according to Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp.

The Team of Choice are currently undefeated in their last six league fixtures and will be well rested from their 3-1 victory over Moroka Swallows on Saturday night, which is a good thing considering the injury woes that arose after that match.

Both centreback Mario Booysen and leftback/holding midfielder Ruben Cloete picked up knocks in the win, but Middendorp confirmed that the pair will resume full training today and are likely to be available for selection come Tuesday.

More good news for Middendorp on the injury front is that veteran rightback Peter Petersen has resumed full training with the side after recovering from a bruised hip that has kept him out of United’s last three fixtures.

It is seldom that matches between these two sides are viewed as top of the table clashes, but Stars became the first team this season to defeat log leaders Kaizer Chiefs last season and now occupy fourth position on the table, just a point and a position behind United.

But Middendorp doesn’t think that the added incentive of the fight for the third place will have any effect on his side.

“It doesn’t change anything. We take it match by match. We prepare the same if we are at home or away and regardless of who we are playing,” the 54-year-old told The Witness yesterday.

He pointed out that his side managed to get maximum points against Swallows despite not being at their best that night.

“I think for me, that is a sign that we are on the right track.”

With University of Pretoria currently in fifth place on the table and six points behind United, whoever wins Tuesday’s encounter will surely have some breathing space in the top four heading into the end of year break. But Middendorp is all too aware of the test that awaits his side, and would rather focus on the immediate task at hand instead of making any Christmas plans yet.

“They [Stars] are an experienced side that is clearly structured and doesn’t waste needless energy,” he said. “They completely deserved to beat Chiefs. They are a side where everybody defends and attacks together and this can make it difficult for the opposition.

“But we know what we have to do and we have many flexible options of our own.”

Playmaker Delron Buckley returns from suspension, and Middendorp will be encouraged by the form of his foreign allegiance. Terrance Mandaza, Cuthbert Malajila [both Zimbabwe] and Frank Gyamfi [Ghana] were all on the score sheet in the Swallows win, and Middendorp has been encouraged by what he has seen.

“I am very happy for Frank. He is becoming so important at stretching the defence and his ability from set pieces too. Terrance is growing game by game, but he can deliver more. I believe we still have not received the best from these players,” the coach said.

The coach might not want to think that far, but a win for United on Tuesday would go a long way towards ensuring that those within the club are afforded the rare opportunity to enjoy a festive season where they can look back on the first half of their season with their feet up.

The tie starts at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

• sport@witness.co.za

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