United aim to end Chiefs’ run

2014-09-26 00:00

THE task could hardly be more daunting as Maritzburg United prepare for tomorrow night’s PSL date with Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium.

Maritzburg have reason for optimism after a good start to the league season that has seen them lose just once, draw three times and win twice in their opening six matches. It is a start that has left them in a solid sixth place on the table and full of belief as they seek their first ever top-eight finish.

But as encouraging as Maritzburg have been, the form of Chiefs so far this campaign has been nothing short of devastating.

In winning the MTN8 final against Orlando Pirates at Moses Mabhida Stadium last week, Stuart Baxter’s charges recorded their 10th straight win of the 2014/15 season (six league, four cup).

Maritzburg captain Ashley Hartog watched that match, and is fully aware of the challenge facing the Team of Choice tomorrow night.

“They are a very good side, everybody knows that,” Hartog told The Witness yesterday. “They are very organised. They keep their shape really well.”

Hartog identified Chiefs’ set-piece threat as particularly dangerous.

“If you look at the goals they score, a lot of them come from set-pieces,” said Hartog. “We need to defend strongly and not give them any space.”

Maritzburg were also the unlucky side drawn away to Chiefs in Monday night’s Telkom Knockout first-round draw. With those fixtures set to take place next weekend (exact dates are yet to be confirmed), United now face the unenviable fate of having to make two trips to Chiefs in one week. It may be enough to send shivers down the spine for United’s youngsters, but Hartog has encouraged the youthful Maritzburg squad to embrace the opportunity.

“It doesn’t change anything for us [drawing Chiefs in the Telkom],” said the club captain. “We want to go there and win the game. Hopefully we will give them something to think about ahead of the cup game.”

Hartog did, however, acknowledge that the younger players in the side would have to adjust quickly to playing on a stage as big as the FNB Stadium in front of what is an expectant group of Chiefs supporters at the moment.

“You don’t need any motivation when playing against Chiefs. The fact that we are playing against them is motivation enough,” he said. “We want to go out there and enjoy it. It’s going to depend on our mental strength. I’m not sure how some of the youngsters are going to react to the crowd. It might take a few minutes for them to adjust.”

But, as coach Steve Komphela said after United’s 1-1 draw at home to Black Aces two weekends ago: “There is no room for fear in the PSL.” United have an opportunity to do what no other side has done so far this season — and they don’t even have to win tomorrow night to achieve that.

The match kicks off at 8.15 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

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