United aware of Wits threat

2013-03-06 00:00

FRESH off a dramatic Terrance Mandaza-inspired victory over Black Leopards on Sunday, Maritzburg United will take on Wits in Johannesburg this evening with plenty of confidence.

Mandaza’s two magical goals in three minutes secured United’s first win of the year. With tonight’s clash at Bidvest Stadium, coach Ernst Middendorp will be desperate to leave Gauteng with at least a point in the bag as his bid to consolidate a top eight finish continues. It is the side’s last league clash until March 31.

United are currently fifth, level on 28 points with Bloemfontein Celtic in sixth. With Celtic away at Orlando Pirates tonight, United will fancy their chances of tightening their grip on fifth place should they avoid defeat.

Sunday’s performance was inspired, and Mandaza’s brace saw United break a goal drought that had lasted over 470 minutes in a match where they demonstrated that they are not always a side that sits back and looks to defend. The quality of the forward attacking movements suggested that United have found their groove, and fans will be hoping for confirmation of that tonight.

“It had been a difficult moment for us,” Middendorp said of his side’s start to the second half of the campaign. “It wasn’t even about not winning for me, it was about not scoring. This is what makes it interesting as a coach when you have to find solutions.”

But even through the tough times, Middendorp has never once questioned his side’s commitment and potential.

“We know what we are capable of and, I’ve said it before, whether we are home or away we can compete with any side in the league.”

Having gone through most of this season employing one target man up front, Middendorp now has a selection headache should he decide to continue with his lone striker tactic.

United’s top scorer this season, Cuthbert Malajila, is available for tonight’s clash after missing out on Sunday through suspension. While Middendorp has used Mandaza on both wings at various stages throughout the season, the coach has confirmed that striking is Mandaza’s best position. And his goals on Sunday suggested just that.

“The goals were both fantastic and they didn’t just happen,” said Middendorp. “When you see that they are the result of what we have done at training it makes you very happy.”

With Heinrich Isaacks, Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi and Orlando Smeekes all still out injured, Middendorp’s attacking options are limited. With Dillan Sheppard and Delron Buckley both proving influential on Sunday, Middendorp will need to decide if he sticks with Philani Zulu on the right of midfield.

If Malajila starts, as is expected, then Mandaza could move to the right while Zulu would more than likely be benched.

Speaking of his opponents tonight, Middendorp is fully aware of the threat that they posed.

“We know they are a good side but we will be prepared,” he said.

After tonight’s clash, United will have some time off as they prepare for their Nedbank Cup last 16 affair in Mthatha with Tembu Royals on March 17.

“I am glad we have the cup match in between. Can you imagine having to wait until the end of the month before our next game?” said the coach.

Tonight’s encounter will kick off at 7.30 pm and will not be televised.

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