United to field fully fit squad

2013-03-29 00:00

MARITZBURG United’s PSL opponents for Sunday’s clash at Harry Gwala, Chippa United, are bottom of the log, have won only once in 10 league matches and have not registered a single win away from home all season.

But as much as the statistics appear to be in the Team of Choice’s favour, United are all too aware that they will need to be at their best against a side fighting for survival.

At yesterday’s Harry Gwala training session, Ernst Middendorp’s men were sharp on the ball, with a new-found intensity and in high spirits.

That may have had something to do with the fact that, for the first time in a long time, Middendorp has a fully fit squad to choose from.

With Orlando Smeekes back for the first time since November, only Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi is out for this weekend as he completes his duty with the Ghanaian U20 side in this weekend’s continental final.

Smeekes opened up yesterday and spoke about his injury for the first time, saying he couldn’t be happier to be back on the field. “I’m really happy that I’m back on the field, I’ve never had an injury like this before. It was really tough. Not only physically but mentally as well; it plays a lot on your mind,” the Dutch midfielder told The Witness yesterday.

While Smeekes hasn’t been on the field for months, his workload wasn’t lightened at all as he spent countless hours rehabilitating his broken foot on the road towards full fitness.

“I was spending Monday to Friday, twice a day with specialists so it was really hard,” he said.

While Smeekes might not be rushed straight back into action on Sunday, he is as determined as ever to contribute to the cause as quickly as possible.

“I don’t know how long it will take, but I know that the team needs some speed, so I want to contribute as soon as I can,” said the 31-year-old.

“I just want to help the team.”

One man who was also nursing a slight niggle at training yesterday (ankle) was centre back Mario Booysen, who has scored in United’s last two matches and now has three league goals to his name. He is expected to have fully recovered by Sunday, and if he isn then he is sure to be the first name on Middendorp’s team sheet.

The importance of the game, which could see United move back up to fifth on the log with victory or out of the top eight with a loss, is not lost on the former SuperSport United man.

“Ja, it is massively important for us to win this. We are a side that has shown a lot of professionalism and everywhere you look there is quality on the field,” said Booysen.

“It all starts with Sunday. If we can go on a run and win three games in a row then we are pretty much guaranteed a top eight place. We all have the belief.”

United have made defence their priority all season, but Middendorp has hinted that he will leave no stone unturned in his quest to secure maximum points. It all points towards a rare all-out attacking display from United — one that should make for a highly entertaining affair as Chippa themselves cannot afford anything less than a win.

The match kicks off at 3.30 pm and will be televised on SABC 1.

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