United’s bid for top eight about ‘creating history’

2015-04-24 00:00

FINISHING in the top eight this ­season is more about pride and ­creating history for Maritzburg United than anything else. That was the view of coach Steve Komphela yesterday as his side prepare for a home battle against Ajax Cape Town on Tuesday.

United, currently in eighth position on the log with four rounds of fixtures remaining, have never finished in the top half of the table. Should they achieve that this season, they will earn qualification into next season’s lucrative MTN8 — a tournament that they have never played in. But that is not the motivation for this side.

“Our ambition is to make them a generation of those people who took Maritzburg into the top eight for the first time in 10 years. It is possible and that is still our objective,” Komphela told The Witness yesterday. “We don’t want to throw forward too much. For us to be in that MTN8 competition we have to qualify, and qualification is within reach now. What is more important is that it is possible that they can write history and be a generation of Maritzburg players who went into the top eight — a generation that makes history.”

United are coming off the back of a 1-0 win at Bloemfontein Celtic on Sunday — a match that was not the easiest to watch. Chances were few and far between for both sides, and it was an early Kurt Lentjies goal that proved to be the difference. Komphela acknowledged after that match that it was not his side’s best performance of the season. But, at this stage, results are surely more important than performances.

“Everybody would welcome a result any time, whether you win ugly or not, the results come first,” Komphela said. “The dangers are that you could play the best football and not get results, and that puts a strain on them [the players]. We are delighted that we ­finally got the result and it boosts confidence, but it would have been better to win having played well.”

Lentjies has become a big player for United over the second half of the ­season, his touches on the ball and his vision proving increasingly influential, and the nature of his goal against Celtic impressed Komphela. After a Deolin Mekoa free kick, Lentjies launched ­himself at the ball to bundle it home at the far post and give United the lead and ultimately the win.

“He’s done very well — for himself and for the club,” said Komphela. “The goal he scored last week was out of sheer bravery and totally uncharacteristic of Kurt Lentjies. If I were to be given a scenario like that, and I was to be asked which player in this team is brave enough to attack that ball, I’m sure Kurt would be the last to be mentioned. But he showed that he is brave enough and he has done very well. One thing that I have picked up from Kurt is that he is an emotional person and player, so you need to find a way to deal with the inner being and then you will get the outer person.”

Whatever Komphela is doing, he is certainly getting the best out of ­Lentjies right now.

Ashley Hartog, meanwhile, continues to make his recovery from knee surgery. The news yesterday was that the central midfilder and club captain wanted to be a part of on-field training, but that due to the intensity of the ­session Komphela would not let him take any risks, but the coach felt that Hartog would likely be back on the field before the end of the season.

United play Ajax Cape Town at ­Harry Gwala Stadium on Tuesday, with kick-off pencilled in for 7.30 pm.

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