United ‘are due a win’

2015-02-18 00:00

MARITZBURG United are enduring their toughest period of 2014/15.

Without a win in six PSL matches, the Team of Choice are given a break from league duty tonight when they travel to Mbombela Stadium for a Nedbank Cup last 32 tie against Clive Barker’s Mpumalanga Black Aces.

This tournament means a lot to the players, given that it is now their only chance of silverware this season. Of course, the main aim for Maritzburg remains a top eight finish in the league, but with the times as tough as they are right now the beginnings of a cup run could only be good for morale.

United fought back from a goal down at Chippa United on Saturday to draw 1-1. It was yet another game without a win, but Terrance Mandaza’s late equaliser may have been a mini turning point for United this season. It saved Maritzburg from what would have been their fourth straight loss — and even though they have now slipped down to ninth on the log, at least they go into tonight’s clash with their heads held high following a gutsy display at the weekend.

“We showed good character against Chippa on the weekend to come from a goal down and get a result,” Maritzburg central midfielder Nhlanhla Vilakazi told the club’s website yesterday. “Of course we wanted a win, but the fight we showed was encouraging.”

It is not talk that we are used to hearing from the Team of Choice, who became one of the most respected sides in the league under coach Steve Komphela in 2014. But, as has been seen throughout the years, consistency in the PSL is difficult to maintain.

According to Vilakazi, the players are the only ones who can dig the club out of the hole they currently find themselves in, and they can start the road to recovery with a positive result tonight.

“We have to keep that fighting spirit going — a win in the cup would be a real boost for the team now and can help us get back to winning ways in the league as well,” he said.

“It’s going to be tough. Away from home and they [Aces] are a good team. I wouldn’t pick out any individuals as danger men — they have a lot of very good players and they play well as a team.”

That unity has been a common feature of Barker’s sides for over two decades now. The former Bafana Bafana mentor spoke this season of his desire to go out of the game as a champion, and with his side hovering in 13th place on the log, the Nedbank Cup presents the most realistic way of making that happen this season.

But Maritzburg have motivation of their own. “The Maritzburg players are hungry. We feel we are due a win,” said Vilakazi, who came close to scoring against Chippa. “We want to go out and do well in the cup, to make the club proud and Maritzburg proud.”

The bad news for United is that captain Ashley Hartog has not travelled with the squad. The holding midfielder picked up a knock at training on Monday.

The club confirmed yesterday that a stand-in captain would be named today. Other than that Maritzburg have a fully fit squad available, with no injuries or suspensions.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

NEDBANK CUP LAST 32 FIXTURES TONIGHT (7.30 pm)

Orlando Pirates v Toronto FC

Mpumalanga Black Aces v Maritzburg United

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