United flirting with relegation at Loftus tonight

2011-02-19 00:00

THE dreaded, desperate scrap to avoid relegation is what Maritzburg United find themselves playing to avoid as they take on SuperSport United in tonight’s Premier Soccer League clash at Loftus.

At the start of the season it would have been unthinkable to contemplate a relegation clash between SuperSport and Maritzburg.

The PMB team, of course, are not in unfamiliar territory, having flirted with relegation in all their four previous seasons in the PSL. Given that this was Maritzburg’s best squad they have taken into a league campaign, though, they had hopes things would be different this time round. They haven’t.

What is surprising, though, and even verging on shocking, is that three-time successive champions SuperSport are just a place above third-last Maritzburg, in 13th, with 10 matches to go.

If it’s been a disappointing season for the United from the KZN midlands, then it’s been a nightmare one for the illustrious side from Pretoria.

SuperSport have just not managed to get into any sort of stride or form following their three all-conquering campaigns.

The pay-TV channel-owned team have been rebuilding after successively losing key players in the past three years. Mostly, though, Gavin Hunt’s side have just lost that intangible winning formula, and spectacularly so.

Both Maritzburg and SuperSport will be all too aware of the importance of a win tonight.

Second-last Moroka Swallows have been showing signs of a fight under Gordon Igesund since the competitive coach’s arrival in December, including in an unfortunate 1-0 defeat against Kaizer Chiefs in midweek. The signing of Bafana star Macbeth Sibaya is a clear indication that the Birds mean business.

If Maritzburg lose tonight and Swallows win against Lamontville Golden Arrows in Chatsworth tomorrow, then a gap that in January stood at eight points will have been reduced to one, and it will be game on in the relegation dogfight.

SuperSport may be struggling for form, but they still possess the core of a side that won the league title three times in a row, including defender Morgan Gould, midfielders Dipsy Selolwane, George Maluleka and Letladi Madubanya, and forwards such as Fikru Tefera and Anthony Laffor.

Goalkeeper Rowen Fernandez was one of the best signings of the January transfer window.

SuperSport welcome back Glen Salmon from the injuries that have dogged the tall striker all season, and Hunt said the forward’s return could be key to a turnaround for the champions.

“Glen has been the missing link upfront for us this season and his return to training is certainly a big boost …” the coach said.

Apart from a chronic lack of confidence in front of goal, Maritzburg have appeared to suffer from either a lack of hunger to win games, or belief that they are able to — or both.

But if there was a time to reverse that trend it will be in the PMB team’s next 10 games.

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