‘Plenty of room for improvement’

2010-10-19 00:00

WHILE a first win of the Premier Soccer League season — 1-0 against Moroka Swallows at Harry Gwala Stadium on Friday night — has boosted Maritzburg United’s confidence, there is still plenty of room for improvement in the team’s performance, says coach Ernst Middendorp.

After two unimpressive defeats — 3-0 at home to Lamontville Golden Arrows and 2-0 away to Bloemfontein Celtic — where United’s season appeared to be going off the boil a little, the PMB team got their campaign back on track with a dominant display against Swallows.

But there are still plenty of departments that need strengthening, Middendorp said yesterday.

“You could see in our first four matches — we had a lot of work to do with players coming into the squad late,” the coach said.

“Then there are players like Bevan Fransch, Diyo Sibisi and Fabian McCarthy, who barely played for their clubs last season. And, yes, maybe we had to change the system a little bit.

“And there will still be ups and downs. We can improve on the performance against Swallows a lot. There were the little mistakes made, such as missing chances.

“On the positive side, it was our first time dominating in defence and attack for the full 90 minutes this season. But there is still a big step to go.”

Middendorp was keen to play down the role played by 18-year-old substitute JB Ncubeni, who returned from injury with a skilful display and provided the cross for Sibisi’s 66th-minute goal. The coach, eager to protect the youngster from media overexposure, preferred to concentrate on a good team effort by United.

“I said to him [Ncubeni] on Sunday, ‘OK, you had a good match, but don’t let it go to your head. There is still a lot of work to do’.

“I put JB in a playmaker position and asked him to cut down on the over-elaboration he has shown on the wings, and I think he was far more effective.”

Ghanaian John Arwuah, returning to midfield from defence, was probably United’s man of the match.

“There was no doubt that John’s move to midfield made a difference,” Middendorp said. “OK, I tried him in defence and he was comfortable, but the lights were not burning bright. In midfield he was more comfortable and the lights were burning very bright.

“This was a player who was very influential, especially with his co-operation with [defensive midfield partner] Bevan Fransch.”

United face Bloemfontein Celtic away on Sunday in the first round of the Telkom Knockout. Middendorp is convinced it will be a whole different ball game from United’s disjointed league defeat to Celtic in the Free State capital a month ago.

“This past three-and-a-half weeks’ break was an absolutely fantastic blessing for me, given the situation in my team. Against Swallows our confidence was good and it was a good performance, not just a good result.

“Now it’s important that we move forward. We saw with Celtic’s [1-1] draw against Arrows at the weekend that we can get something from the match. Yes, I do think it will be a different game to the last time.”

• Maritzburg United have arranged buses for supporters wanting to travel to Bloemfontein on Sunday. Tickets are R200 for the return trip, including a R50 grandstand ticket. Contact Jarryd at 033 345 5666/7.

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