Must-win game for upbeat United

2010-02-24 00:00

MARITZBURG United are still in with a chance of a top eight finish, though it remains something of a long shot as the Team of Choice take on Free State Stars at the Charles Mopeli Stadium in QwaQwa tonight.

With this being the penultimate round of matches, all teams in the PSL will have their eye on the results of someone around them.

Bottom-placed Jomo Cosmos (21 points), who are at home to Mamelodi Sundowns, will follow the result of second-last Mpumalanga Black Aces (25) away to Kaizer Chiefs. Second-placed Sundowns will hope leaders SuperSport United stumble at home to Wits University.

Orlando Pirates, along with Bloemfontein Celtic the only teams out of action tonight, will be hoping Chiefs and Santos, at home to AmaZulu, slip up to give the Bucs a chance of finishing third. And so on.

For Gordon Igesund’s Free State Stars tonight, the result to watch will be the one between second-last Aces and Chiefs in terms of the relegation battle.

In what is almost a two-horse race for eighth place, United will pay close attention to the game at Dobsonville Stadium between Moroka Swallows and Platinum Stars.

Swallows host Cosmos in their final match on March 6 and by that stage Jomo Sono’s men could already be relegated, and should have no fight left in them. From a United perspective, tonight’s meeting against Platinum is the most likely of Swallows’ last two games where the Birds might drop points.

If the Birds draw tonight and United win, both teams will need to win their final games (United play Santos at Harry Gwala Stadium on March 6) for eighth place to come down to goal difference. Currently United have a difference of -10 and Swallows are on -8.

If Swallows lose and United win, the Team of Choice will have a point’s advantage going into their final game.

United will want to win tonight not just to stay in the top eight race, but also to preserve an at least ninth position that the Team of Choice have worked hard for in their gradual climb up the table since the arrival of coach Ernst Middendorp halfway through the season.

Stars have striker Sthembiso Ngcobo and defender Reuben Cloete out injured. Captain and midfield organiser Duncan Lechesa was stretchered off in their 1-0 defeat against AmaZulu last Wednesday and will be out for eight weeks with a knee injury. Igesund has defender Martin Carelse back from suspension.

Things have come together for United under Middendorp in the second half of the season. Three new loan signings — goalkeeper Shu-aib Walters, defender Mario Booysen and especially midfielder Kurt Lentjies — arrived, fitted in like a glove and made the line-up more balanced.

Other players began playing to their potential, such as Chilis Madondo, Musa Nyatama, Rudolf Bester and candidate for player of the season, Elias Ngwepe. Recently Fadlu Davids has rediscovered his scoring touch.

The PMB team have been buoyed by two excellent performances in home victories over Golden Arrows and Pirates.

Now United will want to carry that form to the road and keep the pressure on for a top eight place.

PSL preview, fixtures and standings, page 22.

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