United have upper hand against Stars

2013-11-08 00:00

MARITZBURG United were unable to claim back-to-back wins on Sunday, but they now have an opportunity to get back on track should they beat Platinum Stars at fortress Harry Gwala stadium tonight.

Judging by how the two teams have done so far this season, the Team of Choice should have an upper hand against a currently in-form Dikwena side that is yet to win on the road in the league.

United and Stars have faced each other already this season in the Telkom Knockout with the boys from Rustenburg winning that encounter 2-0 at the Moruleng Stadium.

But, with United now under the stewardship of the more attack-minded Clinton Larsen, they should fancy their chances to claim the three points, and push up the table as they seek that elusive top eight spot.

Two weeks ago, club chairperson Farook Kadodia told The Witness seven points would be ideal ahead of a run of four matches in the league, and the club is on course to meeting that, having claimed four from their last three games. All three of United’s wins this season have come in KwaZulu-Natal, and Larsen will hope they can replicate the way the team played in the second half when they beat AmaZulu at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium towards the end of last month.

Two consecutive clean sheets have been testament to the understanding that has developed by the back four of Thabang Matuka, Rheece Evans, Mohammed Awal and Mario Booysen, with the leadership of stand-in captain Shu-Aib Walters between the sticks.

Awal and Booysen were the glue that kept the defensive unit together during an impressive run last season, and they have so far carried that form into this season, despite an error from the big Ghanaian that led to a goal that saw SuperSport United claim the three points in a 1-0 win in Pietermaritzburg.

They have been strong at the back despite missing names such as Peter Petersen — who is now back — David Booysen, and former Buccaneer Robyn Johannes.

They will have to be on their toes to stifle Dikwena’s top goalscorer Mogakolodi Ngele, Henricho Botes and Robert Ng’ambi.

Should he be on song tonight, the Malawian Ng’ambi will have United’s defenders on a bumpy road.

The club has also been severely hit by injuries in midfield this season with Delron Buckley, Heinrich Isaacks, Nhlanhla Vilakazi and Ashley Hartog having spent some time on the treatment table, but the players that have come in have been impressive.

A name that comes to mind is that of teenage Ghanaian Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi, and he should be full of life again down the right wing as injured Namibian international Isaacks makes his way back to fitness.

Dikwena will also have their hands full with Dillon Sheppard down the left — still one of the most educated left boots in the country.

The player to watch tonight should be the in form Thokozani Sekotlong who has been causing all sorts of problems up front, and linked up well with midfielder Ryan de Jongh for the team’s second goal at Moses Mabhida two Sundays ago.

What Larsen will be hoping for will be to see the partnership between Sekotlong — the club’s top scorer this season with two goals — and his strike partner Mohammed Yakubu become deadlier in front of goal.

Yakubu — who was amongst the top goal­scorers in Ghana for three consecutive years — was unlucky to see his strike against Usuthu be given as a Marc van Heerden own goal, and he will be out to improve his tally for the season, which so far sits at just one.

Tonight’s game at Harry Gwala stadium will kick off at 8 pm.

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