Top 8 spot out of United’s hands

2013-05-16 00:00

THE top eight dream for Maritzburg United is now completely out of their hands, but coach Ernst Middendorp says he has not given up, saying that “anything is possible” as his side prepare for the final league game of the season away to Orlando Pirates on Saturday.

United are currently in 11th place on the log on 36 points and will be hoping that the sides above them — Tuks (37), Free State Stars (38), Sundowns (38) and Moroka Swallows (39) — all slip up on the final day of fixtures to allow United in through the back door.

But all of those four sides will be at home on Saturday and victory for any of them would see United wait another season before qualifying for the prestigious MTN8 competition.

“Our immediate approach is that it is still a possibility and we will do everything in our last game to challenge,” Middendorp told The Witness yesterday. “The league is very close, and it has been all season. So we might make it [top eight], or we might not, but either way it has been a very interesting season for us with lots of positive strides made.”

One thing that does work in United’s favour is that Orlando Pirates will have nothing to gain on Saturday after falling out of the running for the title last week.

Michael Morton is suspended for United, and Middendorp conceded that the midfielder’s absence would be felt on Saturday.

“Obviously it is a big loss for us. He [Morton] is a major physical presence for us in the middle,” said the coach. “But we have options and we must try and replace him. We have Peter [Petersen] and Ryan [de Jongh] available again.”

Middendorp’s contract with the club expires at the end of the season, but he says that he is “quite relaxed” about his future.

With what has been a promising season for the Team of Choice, Middendorp’s renewed contract will surely be nothing more than a formality as he looks to make his squad even more competitive for the next campaign.

“I think for now we will just look at winning Saturday’s match and then from Sunday the meetings can start,” he said.

One of the major challenges for Middendorp in the off season is likely to be holding onto the likes of Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila and Ghanaian centre-back Mohamed Awal, who have both been the reported targets of bigger clubs at home and abroad.

Saturday’s match kicks off at 3 pm and will not be televised.

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