United’s big night out

2009-02-03 00:00

TONIGHT is Maritzburg United’s big night out against the club they just never seem to be able to get one over, Mamelodi Sundowns, in a Premier Soccer League game at Chatsworth Stadium.

There will be few better opportunities than tonight for United to strike a blow in their battle against relegation. If United can pick up at least a point, and leaders SuperSport manage victory over second-last Bay United at the Super Stadium, then the 14th-placed Team of Choice will have a three-point gap over their relegation rivals.

Bay will have a game in hand, though they will still need to earn the points United already have in the bag, and the PE team are in the midst of a tough programme that includes hosting on-form Free State Stars, Platinum Stars away, Sundowns at home, Ajax Cape Town away and Thanda Royal Zulu away.

This all before a “cup final” against Maritzburg at the EPRU stadium on March 4 that could be a deciding fixture in avoiding the drop.

United coach Gordon Igesund has highlighted the problems in the Sundowns camp, and said he intends going for the three points. Certainly eighth-placed Downs have not seemed the happiest combination under French coach Henri Michel, as indicated by a player exodus that has included Dillon Sheppard and Lerato Chabangu signing pre-contracts to join Platinum Stars and SuperSport United respectively, and Josta Dladla joining Kaizer Chiefs.

It is worth remembering, though, that United have never managed a win or draw against Sundowns in five PSL meetings. In 2005/06 United lost 3-0 at Harry Gwala Stadium and 3-1 at Loftus, and the next season were beaten 2-1 at home and away.

Seven weeks ago the PMB team took a 3-0 beating to Sundowns in a similar state of disarray to what the Brazilians are in now.

But the Team of Choice’s confidence is up after two wins in their last three home games. More importantly it was the manner of those victories — 2-0 over then-league leaders Ajax and 3-1 against Bloemfontein Celtic, who were coming off a 6-1 thrashing of Thanda — that would have prompted the self-belief that has Igesund talking up his side’s chances of a victory.

“Individually Sundowns have the best players in the PSL,” the United coach said. “But they have their own worries. Their coach [Michel] is still new and getting to know his players. I hope to take advantage of that.

“We will not sit back and hope for a point. I would rather go down 4-3 fighting for a win than take the defensive option and try and get a draw.

“I believe the players can do me and the club proud. It won’t be easy, but now that we have eased our relegation fears, the players are more relaxed and ready to stand up and take on the so-called big clubs.”

United will miss suspended Fadlu Davids and winger Fanyana Dhladhla, who cannot play against the club he is on loan from.

Chatsworth has been a happy hunting ground for the Team of Choice once this season — they beat Chiefs 3-2 there in their second game — and with three fixtures in succession at the stadium United will hope for more scalps.

Today: Thanda Royal Zulu v AmaZulu (Mpumalanga Stadium, 3.30 pm), Maritzburg United v Mamelodi Sundowns (Chatsworth Stadium, 7.30 pm – SSpt 4), SuperSport United v Bay United (Super Stadium, 7.30 pm).

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