Hard task for United

2014-02-11 00:00

HARRY Gwala Stadium will host its biggest match of the season when Maritzburg United take on high-flying Kaizer Chiefs in a 7.30 pm kick-off tonight.

On paper, United shouldn’t stand a chance, but they are boosted by their dramatic 3-2 win over the University of Pretoria last week. Also working against United is the fact that Chiefs boss Stuart Baxter opted to rest a whole host of his first team regulars in Saturday’s Caf Champions League win over Namibia’s Black Africa, and all of them are set to return tonight as the defending champions look to open up their lead at the top of the table.

Chiefs are littered with Bafana Bafana stars, while United will rely more on a gritty team effort than individual brilliance if they are to get anything from tonight’s clash. If that is to be the case, then it is unlikely to be a pretty affair, and Michael Morton in central midfield will need to spoil as much of Chiefs’ ball as possible.

The club captain is on his way out of Pietermaritzburg at the end of the season after signing a pre-contract with SuperSport United, but he insists that his commitment is still fully with the Team of Choice.

“I am always fully committed to everything that I do,” Morton told The Witness. “I’ve never stepped onto a football field and not given it 150%. I just don’t know how to do it any other way.”

Morton is likely to go toe-to-toe with the experienced Reneilwe Letsholonyane in what is one of the tastier duels on offer tonight, and he is under no illusions about the enormity of the fight that awaits him and his team-mates.

“Obviously, we know that we face tough opposition. We have an extremely difficult task ahead, and we’re going to go out there and give it everything,” said Morton.

Chiefs have won their last nine league matches, and one has to go back to November 5 to find their last defeat — a 1-0 loss at Ajax Cape Town. Even scarier is that the defending champions have conceded just once in their last seven league outings, and this, coupled with United’s difficulties in front of goal this term, suggests that tonight’s result is only going to go one way.

But the concerns over United’s lack of firepower were quelled somewhat from last week’s performance and the man largely responsible for that is new signing Kurt Lentjies. The playmaker had a hand in all three of the goals against Tuks and he will surely be United’s trump card tonight as they look to do the unthinkable. Looking leaner and stronger than United fans might remember, Lentjies’s soft feet, intelligence and ability to pick a pass make him an invaluable asset in coach Steve Komphela’s fight for PSL survival. In his second stint at the club since signing from SuperSport United over the Christmas break, Lentjies says the decision to come back to the Midlands was made easy by Komphela’s presence.

“I’m not going to come to a team where the coach doesn’t want me. Coach Steve said he wanted me here and now here I am,” said Lentjies. “I’ll always have a soft sport for Maritzburg. I spent two-and-a-half years here and now it is time to help us out of the situation we currently find ourselves in.”

Under Ernst Middendorp in his last spell at United, Lentjies was versatile and used all across the midfield line. But Komphela seems adamant to use him at number 10.

“Coach Steve has been keen on me playing at number 10 from the first day I arrived,” said Lentjies. “Luckily, I’m blessed to play all over midfield, so wherever the coach needs me I will play with a smile on my face.”

Tonight’s match will be televised on SuperSport Four, though yesterday afternoon there were still 2 000 tickets on sale at R60 for adults and R20 for children.

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