Defence OK, now for goals

2012-03-02 00:00

IT may not have been the best start for Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp in his second stint at the club, but the Team of Choice will have an opportunity tonight to give their fans something to cheer about when they host Bloemfontein Celtic at the Harry Gwala stadium in a Nedbank Cup last-32 encounter.

United are yet to score a goal in the three PSL matches played since Middendorp’s return and have collected one point from a possible nine.

A credible 0-0 draw at Wits was followed by a 2-0 loss at home to Ajax in a match where United did everything but score.

A controversial 1-0 loss against Orlando Pirates in Soweto followed, when a last-minute United goal was disallowed for offsides, but Middendorp is optimistic that his charges have what it takes to turn things around.

“The defence is the easiest thing to sort out and we have done that,” he said. “We have now been focusing on the final pass and making the right decisions in front of goal.”

Middendorp confirmed that attacking midfielder/striker Wayne Matle, who has enjoyed more game time under the German coach than he was given under Ian Palmer, would start tonight’s match again.

While the league is surely the priority for United, a win tonight couldn’t come at a better time for Middendorp’s men, with crucial league matches against Celtic, Golden Arrows and Black Leopards all taking place within a week from March 14 to 21.

“I think a win would just be fantastic for the players,” said United assistant coach Fadlu Davids.

“It would give everybody a little bit of confidence.”

Davids added that Celtic’s physicality and dominance at set pieces would be a challenge for United, who will be fielding a new centre back pairing in Mor Diouf and David Booysen, the latter replacing the suspended Byrone Hendricks.

Fullback Rheece Evans picked up a knock at training on Wednesday, but is expected to have recovered in time to make tonight’s starting 11, while Francis Chansa will continue to stand in for injured first-choice goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters.

But if United are to advance to the next round tonight, they will need to manufacture at least one goal.

Striker Diyo Sibisi has had highs and lows this season but has managed to find the back of the net on six occasions, and with United’s number nine having done enough in the last three matches to earn Middendorp’s approval despite not scoring, he remains the likeliest of sources to end United’s goal drought.

Nigerian winger Felix Obada is another of United’s most promising attacking threats, but he missed the first two matches of Middendorp’s three in charge through suspension.

“Obada is a quality player but he needs more game time,” Middendorp said. “He was suspended and has only played one match since December 21.”

Whoever it is, somebody in the United side needs to come to the party tonight if Middendorp is to repeat his Cup run of last season when he guided United to the semi-finals of the Telkom Knockout.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 8 pm and will be televised on SuperSport4.


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