United focus on pulling the greatest of escapes

2016-05-11 06:00
Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp is still clinging to hope that they can escape relegation with two games left in the season. PHOTO: gallo images

Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp is still clinging to hope that they can escape relegation with two games left in the season. PHOTO: gallo images

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IT wasn’t an entirely disastrous weekend for Maritzburg United, but their players will feel disappointed they didn’t take three points from their game against Orlando Pirates on Saturday.

For much of the game, the Team of Choice were the better team on the field, and they were done in only by bad luck and finishing.

Having been a victim of rotten luck for practically the entire season, United were fortunate to not concede in the dying moments of stoppage time when Thamsanqa Gabuza missed from point blank range, but the foot of Tamsanqa Teyise could also be credited with the crucial save. At the end, the points were shared, putting United level on 21 with the University of Pretoria, and four behind Jomo Cosmos, their opponents on the final day of the season.

Two games remain in the season, and Ernst Middendorp was still confident that his team can survive, telling SuperSport he enjoyed the challenge of working with struggling teams.

“We put everything in. It was very close in some moments. In terms of the finishing over 90 minutes, I told my players ‘keep this concentration, keep this focus, keep this desire’,” Middendorp said during the television broadcast after the game.

“We keep fighting. We play the next game in four days [on Wednesday], home game. Hopefully there is a lot of support and we make the step that’s necessary,” the German said.

Winning both of their remaining games, against Ajax Cape Town and Jomo Cosmos, will preserve United’s top flight status, or at least see them qualify for the relegation/promotion playoffs.

“Two games to play … now is the question ‘will everyone win two games?’ I don’t know. Actually, in this league, it makes it very interesting.

“We know we have a chance. I said in the beginning of January when I went into this challenging project that the last three, four games will make it. We are somehow used to it; this situation of nothing lose.

“This is nothing new. I’ve taken teams from the bottom up to safety. I like this challenge,” Middendorp said.

While United host the Urban Warriors on Wednesday, AmaTuks travel to the capital of Limpopo to take on Polokwane and Jomo Cosmos are in Durban to play against Golden Arrows. On the final day, Tuks will host Arrows, with United and Cosmos going head-to-head.

If United can avoid relegation, it will no doubt be the greatest of escapes, possibly even greater than Leicester City’s run to avoid the drop last season.

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