United back in relegation dogfight after loss to gritty Birds

2011-02-14 00:00

MARITZBURG United are right back in the relegation dogfight following their 1-0 Premier Soccer League defeat against Moroka Swallows at Dobsonville Stadium on Saturday night.

Following two home matches against AmaZulu and Bloemfontein Celtic where United drew intead of winning, despite having played well enough to have won both, Saturday’s defeat means the desperate 15th-placed Birds have closed the gap to four points on 14th-placed Maritzburg.

United went behind to a fifth-minute penalty by Birds striker Siyabonga Nomvethe after a foul by defensive midfielder John Arwuah.

After that it was difficult for the visitors to fight back into the game against a Swallows side displaying characteristically gritty football that is the hallmarck of coach Gordon Igesund, with the Birds picking up seven yellow cards.

However, United had a let-off in the 35th minute when Nomvethe misplaced a second spotkick wide after a handball by United defender Christian Alder.

Maritzburg did again have their chances, and again a costly tendency to panic in front of goal cost the PMB team.

“Obviously we conceded a penalty in the fifth minute and from then on we were always up against it,” said United assistant coach Sallie Adams.

“And of course with the composure in front of goal it was the same old story. We really tried to get back into the game but it’s bad enough playing a team desperate for points when you can score, and even worse when you can’t.

“To be honest we had an off night. The key players who we needed to raise their game for us and show their ability just never quite managed to.”

With Mpuamlanga Black Aces, 1-0 away losers against Vasco Da Gama yesterday, increasingly entrenched in last place it is becoming a two-horse race between Maritzburg and Swallows for the second-last position in which teams go into a playoff with the second to fourth-last NFD sides.

With United having been so inconsistent this season, showing flashes of brilliance and far too often dropping points in games they have dominated, their supporters will be becoming increasingly disillusioned that a talented side can somehow find consistency and challenge for a top eight place.

And while United have a four-point gap over Swallows, the Birds have a game in hand with which they could reduce that to a single point.

With their backs up and a sniff of saving themselves from the playoffs, the Birds will come out fighting in that outstanding game when they meet Kaizer Chiefs at FNB Stadium in a game that was postponed from earlier this month.

With United’s midweek match against Platinum Stars having been postponed, the PMB team face SuperSport United in Atteridgeville on Saturday in their next match.

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