Ernst's engine room

2013-08-28 00:00

THE Team of Choice take on Free State Stars in Phuthaditjhaba tonight. United beat Polokwane City in their first game, and will hope to continue their winning start to the league.

Steve Kompela’s team suffered a heavy defeat at the hands of Supersport United in their opening fixture, and will hope to bounce back.

United have travelled to the Free State with all but one player from their victory against Polokwane City. Winger Heinrich Isaacks is unavailable for the clash, but coach Ernst Middendorp will be relieved to have experienced former Bafana Bafana star Delron Buckley among his travelling squad.

The club will, however, still be without two of their new signings in Ashley Hartog and Nhlanhla Vilakazi, who are nursing injuries.

Middendorp last week told The Witness that although Hartog had resumed training, he’d only be ready for the big one at the FNB Stadium against champions Kaizer Chiefs in two weeks.

To avoid being seen as the early front runners for relegation, Steve Kompela’s men will have to raise their game against a team chasing a top eight finish.

Shu-Aib Walters: United’s former captain and a member of Bafana Bafana’s World Cup squad is the first name on coach Ernst Middendorp’s team sheet. The towering shot- stopper brings calm to the defence, and was one of the star performers during the Team of Choice’s flying start to last season. Having being relieved of the burden of the captaincy this season, Walters will now focus more on his keeping. One of the best keepers in the country, he will be hard to beat, and it does help that he has the likes of Mohammad Awal, Mario Booysen and Robyn Johannes to call upon in the centre of defence.

Michael Morton: United’s newly appointed captain is a typical box-to-box midfielder who can run for 90 minutes. The hard- working, hard- tackling midfielder will never shy away from the challenge, and if he loses the ball, he will pin his ears back and run after it to ensure that he gets it back. He demon-strated this last season, and during United’s first game of the season where they beat Polokwane City 1-0 at Harry Gwala. The former Orlando Pirates man is also very vocal on the park, which was one of the qualities that swayed Middendorp’s mind to appoint him as captain.

Dillon Sheppard: Sheppard might be on the very wrong side of 30, but he has one of the most devastating crosses from the left wing in the PSL. If Free State Stars want to come out of this game with anything, they will have to cut out Middendorp’s special weapon, which is Sheppard’s very educated left foot. The 34-year-old was on the park for United for the entire 90 minutes in their game against City, and combined well with Ruben Cloete, who was marshalling the left flank just behind him. He’ll be a handful for Ea Lla Koto as they look to get their season back on track.

Mohammed Yakubu: The ‘Yak’ was brought in to the club to fill the void left by last season’s top goalscorer for the club, Cuthbert Malajila. Middendorp will have been happy with Yakubu’s lively performance in the first game against City. A lot of his chances came from out of the box, but the German coach will hope he can get into the box more. The Ghanaian scored a lot of goals in the last two seasons in his native country, and after the first game, he will be United’s go-to man for goals against Free State Stars.

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