‘It was like a varsity game’

2012-08-15 00:00

HE has never been one to hold back, and Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp honoured tradition yesterday when he got stuck into a few issues from his side’s 1-1 draw with University of Pretoria at Tuks on Sunday.

United were on the receiving end of some aggressive and often illegal tackling from the Tuks boys, and Middendorp was quick to point out the incident on five minutes when United’s new major signing Delron Buckley was taken out by a studded, no-footed tackle from Tuks’s Warren Bishop.

The challenge had the United bench screaming for a red card to be shown, and video replays suggested that their calls were justified. But Bishop got off with yellow and Tuks went on to take the lead in the second half before United found a late equaliser.

“I can recall that one and many other instances where they were making these types of tackles,” the coach said yesterday, still clearly infuriated by some of the refereeing he had witnessed just two days earlier.

“It was like a university game — is this the type of thing we have let happen in South African football? If he gets sent off we have 85 minutes against 10 men.”

As a result of what was a physical afternoon for Buckley especially, the midfielder spent much of yesterday’s training session with the boots off and trainers on as he jogged around the field trying to recover.

“Of course, when you get targeted that much, you will need some time to recover,” Middendorp explained.

Further to venting over the nature of the challenges his players endured on Sunday, Middendorp lamented the amount of time he had been given to “unify” the squad ahead of the new season.

With many of his new signings (Mohamed Awal, Terrance Mandaza, Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi, Orlando Smeekes) being foreign players, Middendorp has had to endure a frustrating pre-season while waiting for the admin that goes with new passports and work permits to take care of itself.

This, coupled with the late arrival of players such as Mario Booysen, Ruben Cloete and Smeekes (who went back to Holland for the birth of his child) means that United have seldom been together as a full squad.

“I can’t think of one day where we’ve all been together,” the coach said, adding that Awal is currently in Ghana “sorting something out”.

That being said, Middendorp is pleased with his current squad of players on an individual basis.

“Individually, I am confident that the capability is there. We have options in all positions,” he said.

“But the unification process will take time. Time which we don’t have, we need to do it quickly.”

The mentality among the squad currently is an attacking one.

“You can see this by looking at the new signings that we have made,” said Middendorp. “We are looking for more goals and hopefully we will be able to improve on last season.”

While scoring goals is a priority, the defence must surely be Middendorp’s area of least concern at this stage.

With a string of new signings, Middendorp is now spoilt for choice across his defence. Awal, Byrone Hendricks and Mario Booysen look set to slug it out for the two centre back positions, while Rheece Evans, Peter Petersen, Ryan de Jongh, Ruben Cloete and Thabang Matuka will by fighting for spots at fullback.

Turning his attention to the first home match of the season — Tuesday’s clash with AmaZulu at Harry Gwala — Middendorp paid no attention to the Durban side’s 6-0 thra-shing from Kaizer Chiefs on Saturday.

“You can’t make too much out of it. In the first 30 minutes you couldn’t tell which side had the upper hand,” he said.

“We do what we can on the day and every day is different.”

United are expected to have a full squad available for the match, with only Buckley’s fitness and Awal’s absence reason for concern at this stage.

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