‘The only way is up’

2015-03-10 00:00

WHERE to now for Maritzburg United?

They have tried everything. From defensive frailties to toothless attacking, Maritzburg and coach Steve Komphela have done just about all they can to try and rectify the problems that have brought about an eight-match winless streak in the PSL. It is almost as though they are out of ideas, and Komphela yesterday described the issues as “mental”.

“The only way is to remind them [the players] of all of the good work that they have done,” Komphela said from Harry Gwala Stadium yesterday. “We have exhausted all of the ways of not winning a match and the only thing left to do now is win. That is inspiration. We are right at the bottom of the pit and we can’t sink any more. It can’t get any worse; the only way is up.”

But, the hard truth is that it can get much worse. Despite their poor run, Maritzburg have somehow held on to a respectable 10th position on the log standings. They play Kaizer Chiefs tomorrow night and, if the form book is anything to by, Maritzburg have no business taking anything from that match.

Presuming that the sides immediately below them pick up points in midweek, Maritzburg would then slip down the table, making Sunday’s trip to Platinum Stars [15th on table] a massive fixture.

Relegation remains unlikely for the Team of Choice, but with every poor result their chances of a first ever top eight finish diminish.

“You make your own luck. You can’t keep blaming luck,” said Komphela.

“If you were to ask me what has gone wrong … nothing has gone wrong. We are performing very well, the results are just not coming.”

That was evident in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Tuks, where Maritzburg dominated against 10 men for over an hour but were unable to find a goal. Their second half performance in a 0-0 draw at home to Free State Stars two weekends ago was also of high quality, but it appears that there is a supernatural force preventing United from scoring right now.

Chances are coming thick and fast, but regardless who is on the end of them the ball simply won’t go in.

Asked if there was anything more that could be done on the training ground, Komphela’s response was: “It’s mental. We just have to work on their minds and tell them that just because it is not ­happening now doesn’t mean it won’t happen.”

The positive is that, against Chiefs, the players will be as motivated as ever. The Glamour Boys are the most prized scalp in the land, and Maritzburg have historically been good at home against both them and Orlando Pirates.

“Chiefs have been consistent, they have stayed true to the cause and Stuart [Baxter] has given them intelligence emotionally. They win a lot of matches and they don’t get excited. Stuart has kept them humble,” Komphela said of his opposition tomorrow. “The beauty of the Chiefs match is that players rise to the occasion. It becomes more of an event than a football match. It will be packed here, the players are going to enjoy it and it will be a beautiful night.”

There is no doubt that the current crop of players has the ability. That has been proven. With no transfers being made in January, this is the same squad that was impressing the country’s football community in 2014. What has changed? Komphela has been around long enough to know that answering that question is his responsibility.

“As a leader you have to inspire. It is tough, but I have to come across to the team as a source of inspiration. It is more mental than otherwise,” he said. “Any man governed by fear is doomed for failure. I have told them that there is nothing to worry about. If anything is to happen, then I will be the first one to go.”

Fixtures (All 7.30 pm)

Tonight

Orlando Pirates v Chippa United

AmaZulu v Wits

Tomorrow

University of Pretoria v Platinum Stars

Mamelodi Sundowns v Polokwane City

Moroka Swallows v Free State Stars

Ajax Cape Town v Black Aces

Bloem Celtic v SuperSport United

Maritzburg Utd v Kaizer Chiefs.

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