It’s time for results

2015-03-11 00:00

MARITZBURG United coach Steve Komphela spoke this week about how playing Kaizer Chiefs always brings the most out of his players. That will be a small comfort for the Team of Choice when they go into tonight’s PSL clash against the Glamour Boys at Harry Gwala Stadium.

United’s poor run in the league (eight matches without a win) is well documented, but that will be momentarily forgotten when they line up against Stuart Baxter’s title favourites in front of what is expected to be around 11 000 screaming fans tonight. These are the matches that footballers want to play most, and that boost couldn’t come at a better time for Maritzburg’s wounded soldiers.

Fullback Ryan de Jongh, who is available for selection tonight after serving a suspension following his red card in last month’s Nedbank Cup loss at Black Aces, reveals that this has been a difficult time for the squad.

“As much as we try so hard not to show it and work around it, and we put in the hard work to try and clear our minds, it does result in a fall in confidence,” De Jongh told The Witness of his side’s poor run of form.

“But we have the fall-back of our coach who has given us renewed confidence. These things happen in life, but it is about how you deal with it and how you want to move forward, not just as a team but as a group of individuals.”

Komphela is fully aware that should the board run out of patience, he will be the first to be ousted. That is a message that he has conveyed to his players, telling them that they have nothing to worry about and that if they keep turning out positive performances, results will follow.

“I can’t point at anything wrong specifically. We have had a problem with defence before and now we have a problem scoring,” said De Jongh. “It is more of a 50/50 thing. We have come to a compromise and met each other half way. We must score goals and then the defenders must defend goals …”

That is a good philosophy for any football team to have, but the sheer enormity of tonight’s task makes it difficult to see the home side coming out with anything to show for their efforts.

Chiefs have lost once all season, are miles ahead of anyone at the top of the log and have already beaten Maritzburg twice in 2014/15. United met Amakhosi twice in a week over September and October, losing both matches 1-0, first in the league and then in the Telkom Knockout. The second of those matches saw Maritzburg take the game to Chiefs, and it was an obscure Bernard Parker goal with his chest that proved to be the difference. If Maritzburg can replicate that type of intensity tonight, then they will stand a chance.

“Our league standings and our momentum have not been the best, but we’re here now and we are looking to make our mark and move forward,” said De Jongh, who will battle to get into tonight’s starting line-up ahead of Abel Mabaso.

“We want to score points over the remaining games and secure our place in the top eight. It is still possible for us at the end of the day so that’s where we’re heading. Every game is a final for us now.”

One man who could give Maritzburg the injection they need moving forward is winger Mondli Cele. Like many of his team-mates, Cele was outstanding in 2014. His pace, aggression and accuracy with both pass and shot earned him a call-up to Shakes Mashaba’s preliminary Afcon 2014 squad. But 2015 has been tougher for the former Gamalakhe FC winger, with Komphela opting to use him more as an impact player off the bench. Despite this, Cele remains upbeat about his side’s chances tonight.

“It’s going to be a difficult game but we will give our all and work together as a team,” he said. “We’ve been playing well but we haven’t been taking our chances. We can turn it around. We can come together and score goals …”

Chiefs, meanwhile, have no new injury concerns though Siboniso Gaxa did limp off in last weekend’s Soweto derby stalemate against Orlando Pirates. And if Maritzburg are shaky in front of goal now, an opposition defence of Gaxa, Tefu Mashamaite, Erick Mathoho and Tsepo Masilela is enough to suggest a long, long night for the Team of Choice.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm and will be televised on SuperSport Four.

Tonight’s fixtures (All 7.30 pm)

Ajax Cape Town v Black Aces

Moroka Swallows v Free State Stars

Bloemfontein Celtic v SuperSport United

Maritzburg United v Kaizer Chiefs

Mamelodi Sundowns v Polokwane City

University of Pretoria v Platinum Stars.

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