United need to tighten up to beat Jomo Cosmos

2009-10-21 00:00

ON the face of it, Jomo Cosmos’s record of playing 10 games since being promoted back to the Premier Soccer League and winning just one should not send too many shivers down the spines of the Maritzburg United players ahead of tonight’s fixture at Woodburn Stadium.

Then again, Cosmos, along with Mpumalanga Black Aces, have chosen the toughest of PSL seasons to get promoted in, and Jomo Sono’s battlers have shown signs of adjusting to life in the compressed, frenetic 2009/10 campaign. They will be desperate to start picking up points and dislodge themselves from the hole of last place on the log, which makes them dangerous.

Similarly, after a bright start Maritzburg have gone into a mini-slump with their 5-1 home thrashing to Mamelodi Sundowns and 2-0 defeat away to Moroka Swallows. They will be keenly aware that their next three home games will be crucial towards avoiding falling into a hole, and becoming stuck in the morass of a lower-league tussle.

After tonight United face second-last Mpumalanga Black Aces next Wednesday then 13th-placed Free State Stars on the following Saturday. While all are similarly thorny encounters, Maritzburg will know that these sort of matches can only result in three points to the home team if they are to achieve their aim of a successful season and a top eight finish.

“We’ve got these three home games that we have to win, because after that things are going to start getting tough again,” United coach Gordon Igesund admitted this week.

Crucial to this will be United’s midfield clicking into a dangerous passing rhythm again, and applying the sort of combinations that made the team look a dangerous prospect in their first five games of the season.

If Musa Nyatama is to be preferred in the holding role to youngster Chilis Madondo, then the former Thanda midfielder will need to be more forceful in the challenge and make up the numbers in attack as a link-up man, leaving playmaker Noah Chivuta less isolated.

United will want to rediscover their snappy passing and both wingers, Rudolf Bester and Felix Obada, need to start firing in tandem again. Bester found some good spaces against Swallows, but Obada has been off-form in his last two games and appeared to be resting on his laurels.

Igesund has said he will play two strikers tonight. Fadlu Davids is back from suspension and has looked United’s most threatening forward. In fact Davids’s three strikes are the only goals scored by United’s front-men this season.

Norman Smith, suspended for this game having been red-carded against the Birds, and Brice Aka have had their chances, while Collen Zimba has mostly been sparingly used from the bench. Zimba may be a luxury player, not strong in the physical exchanges and with a low work-rate, but he has shown in the past that he can make things happen with his skills and dangerous set-pieces, and Igesund might be tempted to give the striker a starting run.

For Cosmos, Bamuza Sono, the son of owner and coach Jomo, showed his loyalty to the team by sticking with the team in the first division and the one-time Bafana Bafana prospect can be a threat in midfield.

Tough tacklers such as Nigerian defender Ayo Oluwafemi and Lucky Mhlathe in midfield could make life uncomfortable for United, while new Malian striker Sekou Camara scored his first goal in the weekend’s 1-1 home draw against AmaZulu.

For United, a general tightening up and polishing of all areas, from goalkeeping through to striker, should see them have the firepower to get back to winning ways tonight.

More PSL, fixtures and standings, page 22.

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