United will take it ‘game by game’

2008-03-04 00:00

WITH four rounds to go in the National First Division Coastal Stream, and Maritzburg United and Bay United neck in neck to win the stream and go into the final, Maritzburg are taking it game by game, says coach Ian Palmer.

Second-placed Maritzburg are a point behind leaders Bay, while third-placed Nathi have dropped off the pace to fall eight points behind.

Maritzburg play fifth-placed Ikapa Sporting at Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night, then FC Cape Town away next weekend, and have a potential stream decider against Bay at Harry Gwala on April 5. The PMB team finish their season at home against Durban Stars on April 12.

Adding to the intrigue, of what might be a nailbiting finish, is that the Bay players have been offered a R1 million incentive should they be promoted.

The winners of the Coastal Stream play the Inland Stream winners in the final for the one automatic promotion spot to the Premier Soccer League. The losers of the final go into a play-off with the stream runners-up and second-last PSL side.

Commenting on the incentive Bay have offered their players, Palmer’s view was: “It just puts Bay under huge pressure. It doesn’t affect us in any way. It is a lot of money for those players at Bay and it could be distracting.

“And it could motivate the teams playing against them. That is why whatever our players get or have been promised stays under wraps, so it doesn’t put pressure on us.”

Palmer said it is crucial for United — who have won against Western Province United at home and Hanover Park away after a four-match winless run — to keep the momentum going in their next two games and keep Bay under pressure.

“But what we have also got to do is take it game by game.

“It is important for us to get one over Ikapa, and then one over FC. If you look at it, if we win all of our last four games we still win the stream, because we will have beaten Bay at home.

“For now, though, we are focusing on the Ikapa game, then the FC game. Of our last four games my main worry is going to FC away, because we always seem to battle away, where we have to grind.

“And once we get over that hurdle we can start preparing for next season,” the coach said, finishing with a note of confidence.

Palmer said winning the stream is far preferable to finishing second to go into the playoffs. “You’d much prefer to go to the final, because then you have still got the second bite as well, of going into the play-offs if you don’t win.

“And in the final you play against another first division team.

“If you look at the PSL, all of the teams at the bottom can play, and they also have the budget and the resources of a PSL team.”

Bay United this weekend play last-placed Western Province United in Cape Town, Nathi are up against fourth-placed Durban Stars in Umlazi, and third-last FC Cape Town host second-last Hanover Park.

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