Smeekes a doubt for Stars clash

2014-03-27 00:00

MARITZBURG United go into this Saturday’s PSL clash against Platinum Stars in Rustenburg sweating over the fitness of their in-form player Orlando Smeekes, who was taken off in last weekend’s Nedbank Cup win over the same opposition with a hamstring strain.

Ghanaian centre back Mohamed Awal was also substituted in that match with a knock to the knee, and the availability of the pair for this weekend’s match will only be known by the club tomorrow.

While coach Steve Komphela, being his usual diplomatic self, said yesterday that the fitness of all his players was of equal importance, he will surely be more concerned with Smeekes making a recovery to continue the good form that he has shown in recent weeks.

The 32-year-old Dutchman has used his pace to immeasurable effect down the left flank in recent weeks, while Awal has battled to break into Komphela’s starting 11.

“They are both still in the treatment room and we hope that they will be ready by Friday [tomorrow],” Komphela told The Witness from the school’s Carter High training complex yesterday. “He [Smeekes] has contributed very well and we will obviously be watching him closely because he has been on the field a lot for us. Our medics are working on him, and we will see how the next day or two goes.”

United’s triumph over Stars on Saturday sent them into today’s draw for the quarter-finals of the Nedbank Cup, but the league and PSL survival remain the priority for Komphela and his charges.

“What happened on Saturday is gone. We need to focus on this one now,” added Komphela. “We have analysed and identified the problem areas, and we are giving them attention.”

United could have shipped more than the one goal against Stars on Saturday, and this is an area where Komphela — whose side has found the back of the net in all nine matches since he took over in January — seems puzzled. “As much as we’re trying to score, we are being too generous and giving away goals,” he said. “This is a side that never used to concede, so I don’t know what is happening. If we can stop conceding then we will surely win if we are scoring in every game.”

United will have had a full week to prepare for Saturday’s match after squeezing in four games in 11 days.

“That is also a good thing and it gives us the chance to rebuild the energy, because after that we have another hectic period where we are playing matches every few days,” said the coach.

Turning his attention to Stars, Komphela praised the work done by coach Alan Freese in turning the outfit into one of the most respected franchises in the country.

“From afar you see unity when you look at their squad. You can either have a conflict within or you can stay together and direct that conflict towards those on the outside,” he said. “That is what they have done, and that is they type of environment that we have created here. It is us against them.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium at 3.30 pm and will be televised on SABC 1.

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