Draw not enough for PMB’s survival

2011-04-16 00:00

A GOAL in the dying seconds by substitute Gert Schalkwyk salvaged a 1-1 draw for Maritzburg United as the home team had to fight for every inch of a valuable point in last night’s Premier Soccer League game against Wits University at Harry Gwala Stadium.

Third-last Maritzburg will have now all eyes on second-from-bottom Moroka Swallows’ fixture against Vasco da Gama at Dobsonville Stadium this afternoon.

Last night’s tough draw, earned in tough conditions on a wet and slippery pitch, leaves United knowing that even if the Birds beat struggling Vasco, the PMB team will still have a crucial point’s difference over Swallows.

But the relegation quagmire is now set to go down to the wire.

United had their chances to win last night’s game, but paid dearly for allowing a soft early goal by Ryan Chapman that put the hosts under greater pressure than necessary.

Results earned in driving rain — as last night’s match ended in, in front of a few hundred diehard fans — can be the deciders in relegation battles.

But Ian Palmer and his team will be concerned that a draw was not quite enough for Maritzburg’s survival purposes.

United’s last three fixtures see them face last-placed Mpumalanga Black Aces away on May 1 before finishing their campaign against title-chasing Ajax Cape Town (away) and Mamelodi Sundowns (home).

Maritzburg began the brighter team. In just the second minute Felix Obada’s cross produced a wide header from Diyo Sibisi.

The home team came even closer in the sixth when Obada’s blocked shot on the right of the area looped to Fadlu Davids, whose close-range header of an awkward high-ball came off the left upright.

But weak defence saw United concede a 13th-minute goal when striker Chapman rose free to head in Nyiko Tshabangu’s corner from the left.

Stanton Fredericks’s shot from the edge of the area was well saved by United goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters, though after that the home team regained some composure and began to work themselves back into the game.

On the half-hour a Kurt Lentjies’s run down the left culminated in a one-two with Fadlu Davids who shot straight at Wits goalkeeper Darren Keet with his weaker left foot.

Wits were always on the lookout for a second and Chapman’s skidding shot was uncomfortably palmed out by Walters.

Maritzburg had their best chance of the half in its dying seconds. Lentjies put Sibisi through but the burly striker, under the physical attentions of Derrick Spencer, could not get the power on his shot to beat Keet.

United attempted to step up the tempo against an increasingly defensive Wits in the second half.

Early on Musa Nyatama teed up Lentjies on the edge of the area, with a close drive.

With the home side piling on the pressure Wits defender Patrick Phungwayo came within a hair’s breadth of scoring an own goal when he steered Elias Ngwepe’s cross onto the top netting.

Then Obada’s hard drive across goal was somehow missed by Sibisi with the goal at his mercy.

But in worsening rain conditions, and under the pressure of being a goal down, it became difficult for a frantic United to attack with structure and composure.

Passes were over-hit and players slipped in good positions, while some mistimed sliding challenges resulted in a stop-start last half-hour that did not help the home side’s cause.

But with United’s tremendous endeavour they displayed they deserved something from the game. They got it when Obada whipped in a cross from the right that found Schalkwyk alone, who made no mistake with his close-range header.

Whether this will be enough to avoid the playoffs, though, will be revealed in the coming weeks.

Last night: Ajax Cape Town 3 Lamontville Golden Arrows 1, Maritzburg United 1 Wits University 1

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