United need to do soul-searching in two-week break after Santos thrashing

2009-11-09 00:00

MARITZBURG United will be pleased to have a two-week break ahead of their next fixture against leaders SuperSport United following their 4-0 Premier Soccer League thrashing at the hands of Santos at a rain-soaked Coetzenburg Stadium on Saturday night.

As the season reaches halfway in lightning fashion in early November, United find themselves with just 16 points and in 12th place, only four points above second-last AmaZulu.

The Team of Choice will need to improve on this performance in the second half of the season if they are to avoid suffering the ignominy of fighting relegation for yet another season.

United are paying the price for not having picked up enough points in their three home games against lower-table sides Jomo Cosmos (drew 1-1), Mpumalanga Black Aces (won 1-0) and Free State Stars (drew 1-1), and some soul-searching may be required over the next two weeks.

United were always going to be up against it with Santos after having to make five changes from the side that drew 1-1 away to Orlando Pirates for their fixture against a side that revels in playing at home, especially when the conditions are typically Cape-ish.

Saturday’s game, where United conceded a brace each to strikers Phikolethu Spelman (20th and 33rd minutes) and Ryan Chapman (72nd and 90th) was played in wind and driving rain.

United had defenders Bageta Dikilu, Peter Petersen and Elias Ngwepe suspended and midfielders Rudolf Bester and Chilis Madondo injured. All except Dikilu will return against SuperSport at the Super Stadium on November 21.

“I threw a couple of guys in like JB [Ncubeni] as a substitute and Diego Brown at left-back and it was always going to be difficult, especially since the conditions were appalling with about a 60-knot wind and it poured with rain throughout the game,” United coach Gordon Igesund said.

“I tried to give the guys confidence even though we had five changes from the team that drew against Pirates and were playing the team who were third on the log. Unfortunately we were 2-0 down early on through defensive errors and then we were chasing the game.

“With a lot of players out through suspension and injury, we were playing a side that revels in playing in the Cape conditions … and unfortunately we couldn’t stand up to all that.”

While most PSL teams will give their players some time off in the next two weeks, Igesund said he intends training through the Fifa international period.

“Some coaches are giving their players four days off and the coming weekend off, but I’m not going to do that. Some of the guys might be a bit disappointed, but I’m only giving them today, where we travelled, and tomorrow [today]. I’ll give them some time on the weekend too.”

The coach admitted that now might be an opportune time for Maritzburg to do some hard thinking.

“I think it’s important at the halfway stage to take stock. We wanted to get 20 points by this stage, but last season we had 13 by halfway, and this season we’ve got three more than that, which is a positive. And I’ve looked at the second round and can see that this season it’s actually easier for us. We’ve played Chiefs, Arrows, Pirates, Platinum Stars, Ajax and Wits away in the first round, and they’ll all be coming here now in the second round.

“We have to start making Woodburn a fortress for us again to make that advantage count for us,” the coach said.

PSL wrap, results and standings, page 19.

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