United injury-hit and hurting

2013-02-22 00:00

MARITZBURG United have now gone seven PSL matches without a win, but they will have a break from league action tomorrow when they travel to Pretoria for a Nedbank Cup clash against Tuks.

Wednesday night’s 1-0 loss at Free State Stars would have hurt considering that Dove Wome’s winner came in the 86th minute, but coach Ernst Middendorp has taken positives out of his side’s performance despite the loss.

“The game before that [United lost 3-0 to Sundowns] we had clear defensive work to sort out and I thought we did that well,” Middendorp told The Witness yesterday.

“It was a typical 0-0 game and everybody had accepted that both sides deserved a point, but then we gave away an unnecessary free kick and were punished.”

Middendorp refused to make excuses, but it is obvious that these are tough times for the Team of Choice on the injury front.

Salient striker Cuthbert Malajila is still not at his best as he continues to recover from a knee injury, while Ruben Cloete, Heinrich Isaacks, Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi and Orlando Smeekes [long term] are all still on the mend from their injuries.

Still, Middendorp remains upbeat. “I believe in this team and the players and we have to keep trusting each other,” he said.“We just have to keep going and keep working and the win will come.”

Though they have amassed only one point from a possible nine since the league resumed this year, United have, remarkably, not dropped down on the log and still occupy fifth place.

“Every team will go through a difficult time in the season but now it is up to us to go out and collect points,” the coach said.

With United struggling to create chances on attack, the pressure on Malajila’s shoulders is increasing every week the side doesn’t score.

“We need a fully functional Malajila, of that there is no doubt,” said Middendorp.

“I have to be very careful with him. We have played a lot of games in a short time and he is not there yet, but he will start on Saturday.”

United arrived back from the Free State late on Wednesday night and will barely have had a chance to breathe before jetting off to Pretoria at lunchtime today. The side will have travelled to Durban, Port Elizabeth, Phuthaditjhaba and Pretoria in the space off 11 days.

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 8.15 pm and will be televised on SABC 1.

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