United face dangerous Ikapa Sporting

2007-12-21 00:00

SO far Maritzburg United have been unable to open up the significant gap they were hoping to by the Christmas break in the National First Division (NFD) Coastal Stream, as they face Ikapa Sporting at Harry Gwala Stadium tonight.

That is because second-placed Bay United have kept the pressure on Maritzburg with some impressive victories to remain within three points. The Port Elizabeth combination are away against FC Cape Town tonight.

After tonight, United take almost a month’s break, with their next fixture against FC Cape Town away on January 16.

Originally the NFD, like the Premier Soccer League (PSL), was due to break until after the African Nations Cup in Ghana, which finishes on February 10. However a deal with pay-TV channel SuperSport has seen the lower division’s return to action brought forward and several NFD matches will be screened while the PSL is still on break.

On of those televised games will be United’s crunch encounter against Bay at Harry Gwala on January 30.

But before United can begin to think of taking on the PE side, who have been slipstreaming in their wake, they need to concentrate on the matter at hand — preserving their 10-match unbeaten run into the break against equally tough Ikapa. United were 1-0 up in the first-round fixture in Cape Town before having midfielder Michael Mogaladi sent off, conceding an equaliser in the last 10 minutes.

Tonight the Sergio dos Santos-coached Capetonians are likely to play things as physically as they did in the previous meeting.

United’s defence will need to keep tabs on Ikapa’s dangerman, ex-Maritzburg utility player Bradley August, who is back in his favourite striking position for the Capetonians and has scored four goals in eight games.

United’s answer is in their own in-form duo up-front, clinical finisher Fadlu Davids and goal provider Collen Zimba. Davids has scored four times in three starts, while Zimba was in hungry form in United’s 2-0 win over Durban Stars in Umlazi on Saturday, the skillful forward roving all over the park in search of work.

In central midfield, the passing skills and combative play of John Aruwah and Lynch Pule are becoming increasingly crucial to the team.

Ikapa are dangerous because they are wounded. The Capetonians lost 1-0 at home to Bay United two matches ago, and, while they have a match in hand, know that at nine points adrift they cannot drop too many more games and remain serious contenders.

Maritzburg United will have a fight on their hands, but will also know that a victory could go a long way towards steering the Coastal Stream towards a two-horse race.

•Kickoff: 8 pm

NFD Coastal Stream

Tonight: Maritzburg United v Ikapa Sporting (Harry Gwala Stadium), FC Cape Town v Bay United (Blue Downs Stadium)

Tomorrow: Nathi Lions v Durban Stars (King Zwelithini Stadium), WP United v Hanover Park (Wynberg Stadium).

STANDINGS

NATIONAL FIRST DIVISION

COASTAL STREAM

TEAM P W D L F A PTS

Mburg Utd 10 7 3 0 17 6 24

Bay Utd 10 6 3 1 12 2 21

Ikapa 9 4 3 2 14 8 15

Nathi 10 3 6 1 9 5 15

FC CTN 10 3 4 3 11 10 13

Dbn Stars 9 1 4 4 8 14 7

WP Utd 10 0 4 6 5 18 4

Hanover 10 0 3 7 8 21 3

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