United continue winning spree as Middendorp’s tactics pay off

2012-11-12 00:00

ERNST Middendorp’s blue and white Maritzburg United army continued their exceptional start to the PSL season with Saturday’s gritty 1-0 win over Golden Arrows at King Zwelithini stadium in Umlazi.

The goal came from the unlikeliest of sources in wing back Rheece Evans, who converted a Delron Buckley corner midway through the first half in a match where the visitors proved many things.

It was never going to be easy for the Team of Choice, as Middendorp was forced to watch the match from the stands while he served the first of his two-match suspensions following last week’s red card against Bloemfontein Celtic. But while assistant Fadlu Davids was left to man the fort on the touchline, Middendorp’s presence was never lost as even his team selection provided an upset or two.

Opting for a three-pronged central defence of Byrone Hendricks, Mohamed Awal and Mario Booysen, Middendorp employed Evans and Thabang Matuka as wing back in a move that saw regular left back Ruben Cloete move to an unfamiliar holding midfield position alongside Michael Morton.

It was a rare start for Evans and Matuka, who both featured so prominently last season, and Davids acknowledged that the pair had put in performances worthy of praise.

“It has been tough on some of the guys, but that just shows the quality that we have in the squad,” United’s leading goal-scorer of all time told The Witness yesterday. “We have many guys who can play at any time, but Rheece and Thabang did very well. They followed instructions and put in brilliant performances.” The decision to employ three centre backs was one to counter what was an area of concern for United in their 2-1 win over Celtic last week, added Davids.

“We wanted to tighten up in central defence,” he said. “We needed to be very careful after playing Celtic in midweek of fatigue hitting our players.” This unconventional team selection worked in a game where Arrows seldom threatened United goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters.

“I think if you analyse all of our matches closely, you’ll see that we seldom stick to one formation,” said Davids, adding United were fortunate in having experienced guys who could change and employ different tactics, “even if it is half way through a game”.

Davids said that Middendorp’s professionalism made the situation manageable. “Ernst’s attention to detail is phenomenal. He had prepared for every possible situation and even the tactical changes of the opposition,” said Davids. “This made it easy for us on the bench and it really is a compliment to him.”

It has been a tough period for United, who have now played three matches in eight games. But the results have made all of the effort worthwhile and the Team of Choice now sit in an impressive fourth place on the table after 10 rounds of fixtures.

They must wait until next Tuesday, November 20, before they are in action again, but Davids explained that the time off would be welcomed before their difficult fixture against SuperSport United.

“This period has been quite tough and his taken its toll on the players,” said Davids. “But now we will start focusing on the SuperSport match and look at the mistakes we made the last time we played them.”

United were knocked out of the Telkom Knockout by SuperSport when they lost 2-0 at Harry Gwala on November 2.

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