Looking for the answer

2009-10-31 00:00

IF things have gone off the boil a little for Maritzburg United in recent weeks, then tonight’s Premier Soccer League match against Free State Stars at Woodburn Stadium would seem an opportune time to steady the ship.

The 1-0 victory over a weak Mpumalanga Black Aces in midweek might not have been overly convincing, but it was an improvement and a step in the right direction. More steps are needed tonight.

Stars have had a poor start to the season, with just one win from their 12 games. They may be unbeaten on the road, but a 1-1 draw away to Wits University on Wednesday sees the Free Staters languishing in second-last and this is another game United simply have to win if they aren’t to consider themselves also-rans this season.

Making a win all the more vital is the potentially nightmarish programme United enter after this game, playing Orlando Pirates away, second-placed Santos away and champions SuperSport United away before hosting fourth-placed Wits University.

This is a schedule that, should United not find some sort of convincing form, could knock the PMB team’s season for six and any old victory tonight will not suffice.

A good win will restore confidence both on the field, and in the stands, where there have been rumblings of discontent among the fans. And apparently there have been a few within the camp too.

Peter Petersen was mysteriously dropped from the squad entirely on Wednesday and, while the right-back is back against Stars, indications are he might have had a disagreement of sorts with coach Gordon Igesund.

Positives for United against Aces were the continued growing confidence of young, inexperienced Tashrique Goldman in goal, and the combination between substitutes Fadlu Davids and Collen Zimba up-front, with Davids notching the winner and his fourth goal of the season.

Brice Aka, too, has improved in recent games, and got a few shots on goal to follow his equalising goal in United’s previous 1-1 home draw against Jomo Cosmos. Along with the industrious and consistent Elias Ngwepe at left-back, these are some of the players United will look to as they attempt to stamp their authority with greater purpose this afternoon.

During United’s slump playmaker Noah Chivuta has looked isolated in midfield, and consequently has ended up trying to do it all himself.

The strain showed when the Zambian made rare mistakes against Aces, and the midfielder will hope for greater support tonight.

“It’s good to be back to winning ways,” the midfielder said after the midweek victory. “Our confidence is growing and we want to keep the momentum going against Free State.”

Near the bottom is certainly not where Maritzburg want to be according to Chivuta. “The league is extremely tight at the bottom. It is important that we keep getting points; there is no option.”

For Free State, the loss of coach Steve Khompela to Platinum Stars appears to have affected their form, and long-standing servant Themba Sithole has not had success to far. Stars welcomed back influential Ghanaian defender Jonathan Mensah from the Under-20 World Cup against Wits.

United have made a return to lower mid-table, with their four points from their last two games seeing them climb to 11th, and will be looking for more progress tonight.

Today: Kaizer Chiefs vs Orlando Pirates (Orlando Stadium, 3.30 pm – live on SuperSport 4 and SABC1), Maritzburg United vs Free State Stars (Woodburn Stadium, 8 pm), Platinum Stars vs Moroka Swallows (Moruleng Stadium, 8.15 pm – live on SuperSport 4), Wits University vs SuperSport United (Milpark, 8.15 pm – live SABC1)

Tomorrow: (all 3.30 pm) AmaZulu vs Santos (Ulundi Stadium, Mamelodi Sundowns vs Jomo Cosmos (Super Stadium – live on SuperSport 4), Bloemfontein Celtic vs Mpumalanga Black Aces (Seisa Ramabodu), Ajax Cape Town vs Lamontville Golden Arrows (Newlands – live on SABC1)

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