United suffer Booysen blow for Swallows

2014-02-28 00:00

THE fight for survival continues tonight when Steve Komphela’s Maritzburg United host Moroka Swallows in a PSL clash at Harry Gwala Stadium.

Just four points off the bottom of the table with 12 rounds of fixtures remaining, every game is crucially important for United as they look to move up the log and secure their top flight status for next season.

United are coming off the back of a morale-boosting Nedbank Cup win against Mpumalanga Black Aces on Saturday, but that win came at a price as first-choice centre-back Mario Booysen limped off midway through the second half with a groin strain. It is an injury that the former SuperSport United man has not recovered from, and the Team of Choice will go into tonight’s clash without him.

A composed player with an astute positional sense and towering aerial ability, Booysen’s absence will be felt at both sides of the pitch. He is United’s joint top scorer (with Thokozani Sekotlong) this season with three goals, and he has been ever-present for United throughout the campaign.

The good news for Komphela is that Robyn Johannes is fully fit after a long injury layoff, and he will come into contention for a starting berth tonight, though the coach will likely partner Ghanaian Mohamed Awal with Mario’s brother, David Booysen, at centre-half.

“Mario is an incredible centre-back and he scores a lot of goals for us so of course we will miss him,” club captain Michael Morton told The Witness yesterday. “But the good thing for us now is that we have a lot depth in that position. If you look at our squad we have a lot of individuals who are more than capable, and Steve [Komphela] doesn’t mind throwing them in.”

With United’s season only 60% complete, there is still plenty of time left to turn things around and it is not quite panic stations just yet, but too many more losses will make the prospect of relegation very real.

“There is a lot of quality in this team, so we certainly aren’t comfortable with our log position at the moment,” added Morton. “It’s a case of ‘eyes up’ right now. We have to forget about our [Nedbank] cup win, and get our focus back on the league.”

United will also be without Namibian winger Heinrich Isaacks [hamstring], but everybody else is fit and ready to go should they get the nod.

Turning his attention to Swallows, Morton said that he was expecting an open, attacking and free-flowing game.

“Playing against Swallows is always a tough one,” the central midfielder, who is on his way to SuperSport United at the end of the season, confessed.

“It seems like every time we play them there are a lot of goals. Hopefully that is the case again, but it is us who score more. It should be entertaining.”

Swallows are currently in eighth position, six points above United [14th], though they have played one less game.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 8 pm and will not be televised.

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