Not bad, says Middendorp, but now United must focus on improving

2009-11-23 00:00

“NOT bad,” was how new Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp summed up his side’s performance in his first match in charge, after United made life difficult for champions SuperSport United at Loftus on Saturday and ended up narrow 3-2 losers.

After just five days’ training under Middendorp, United looked a refreshed combination from a team that has put in some lacklustre performances recently. The PMB side twice fought back from two goals down, finishing the game pushing for an equaliser.

And while SuperSport coach Gavin Hunt was livid at the manner in which his team came too close for comfort to throwing away victory, Middendorp was overall satisfied, though aware there is much room for improvement.

SuperSport are a side who punish errors, and three of those led to the champions’ goals.

Central defender Mor Diouf allowed SuperSport striker Glen Salmon to get behind him and finish from a long-ball in the 45th minute. Goalkeeper Tashrique Goldman came and punched in the 54th, but only as far as Anthony Laffor to strike into an open goal.

Chilis Madondo gave the ball away in midfield to Daine Klate, who fed Laffor to steer in a second from the edge of the area in the 72nd.

Encouragingly, United scored two cracking goals of their own, Brice Aka turning in a pass from Rudolf Bester in the 70th, and Bester blasting in a long-range effort with nine minutes remaining that mirrored his strike against Kaizer Chiefs earlier this season.

“The strategy was a bit static in the first half, not free. This was a lot better in the second half,” Middendorp said.

“I see a tension and ability in this team, now we must transfer it to a match situation.

“We must start bringing ourselves to the right level — the individuality of the players, the playing as a compact unit, the expression without losing the overall structure.”

Middendorp said he has instructed Goldman to be calmer in his decision-making.

“I am not pointing fingers because I thought he had a good game otherwise — but just as an instruction for the future I have told him ‘sometimes less is more’. It’s about being calm in making decisions.

“But 2-0, 2-1, 3-1, 3-2, so far not bad. There are some important details to work on — we have to find our confidence and of course it is important for the supporters to realise this is a young team and come out to back us on Wednesday night [against Wits University at Woodburn Stadium].

“We have eight home matches left and we have to make those count.”

As indicated before the game, Middendorp made a few positional changes, with Bester starting at striker, James Madidilani in right midfield, Madondo at playmaker and Noah Chivuta on the left.

“You have to have these options,” the coach said. “In a season that is so compressed, if you don’t change your starting XI the players will kill themselves.”

After a good start, Wits have struggled for results, but Middendorp recognises the quality in the side of Wednesday’s opponents.

“Their goalkeeper, Darren Keet, the Brazilian [Fabricio] Rodrigues is a fantastic passer and Calvin Kadi is a pacy, direct striker.

“But against SuperSport we showed something is possible. We had the best chance of the first half when Emille Baron’s save from Rudolf Bester was outstanding, where we should have been 1-0 up. The performance should have given us confidence in this side’s quality.”

PSL wrap, results and standings, page 22.

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