Maritzburg United need some new year’s resolutions

2009-01-09 00:00

SOME years you don’t bother with New Year’s resolutions, but Maritzburg United’s players could certainly have done with a few.

The Team of Choice, who return from the Premier Soccer League’s Christmas break against Moroka Swallows at Olympia Park in Rustenburg tomorrow, could have made quite a few promises to themselves after slipping from the top half of the table at the start of the season to third-last by the end of December.

The defenders might have bent themselves on not making the schoolboy errors that have put the team under pressure time and again. The midfielders could have sworn to rediscover the work-rate, zip and industriousness that saw them overwhelm Kaizer Chiefs 3-2 in a thriller in Chatsworth in September. And to rediscover the crucial supply line to the team’s promising strikers that dried up.

United have made one big-name new signing, but with the paperwork still at a delicate stage late yesterday were not yet willing to reveal his identity.

Asked what United have worked on during the break, coach Gordon Igesund included the hiring of a new goalkeeper-coach, former Mamelodi Sundowns minder Ronnie Kanalelo, among key areas that have been strengthened.

“First of all I had problems with injuries in central defence,” Igesund said. “We brought in Siphiwe Mkhonza to try to settle the defence and when he played things looked a lot better, but then he got injured.

“And with Gary Goldstone also injured the guys playing just weren’t gelling. Mkhonza and Goldstone’s return should rectify that problem.

“The other big problem was our goalkeeper [Hunter Gilstrap] had lost his confidence. That’s why I have brought in Ronnie Kanalelo — he was a top goalkeeper and already I can see a difference.”

Igesund admitted that the break arrived at just the right time for new-look United, who had begun to look dangerously like they were in freefall and entered the recess with the PSL’s worst goal difference of –13.

“It takes a minimum of a year for a new team to knit. And during the break we worked within the departments on building a better understanding.

“We weren’t penetrating enough. My two strikers play with their backs to goal and need quality crosses coming in, and that wasn’t happening. We have worked so hard on those areas, without taking a break over Christmas.

“Positionally I have made a few changes, swapping a few players who are better at passing with players who can run at the opposition.

“We really wanted to end the old year with a good result against Thanda Royal Zulu, but couldn’t and lost 2-0, and that made it a very miserable Christmas. Now we want to get the new year off to a good start.”

With the postponement of their fixture against Telkom Knockout finalists Orlando Pirates from December, and a match against Supersport United brought forward from February due to that team’s participation in the Caf Champions League, United have an almost nightmarish programme in the next two weeks. They play Swallows (away), Pirates (A), Ajax Cape Town (home), Supersport (H) and Kaizer Chiefs (A) in successive weekend and midweek games.

But it’s a schedule Igesund feels can work for the team. “I’m actually very positive about it because they are all teams who you can motivate your players against. I’d rather have this programme than be playing Free State Stars, Bloem Celtic and Bay United.”

Swallows will always be tough opposition at home, particularly since the Gauteng team have played some attractive football under Brazilian Julio Cesar Leal but largely flattered to deceive, and will want to improve on their 11th placing.

Pacy forward David Radebe has finally been in the goalscoring form that eluded him for so many seasons at Chiefs, while Lefa Tsutsulupa provides Birds with a John Deere combine harvester-like engine in midfield.

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