Smeekes playing for his future at United

2014-03-21 00:00

MARITZBURG United striker Orlando Smeekes has been a revelation for the club in recent weeks, and he caused all sorts of problems for Ernst Middendorp’s Bloemfontein Celtic in Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw between the sides at Harry Gwala Stadium.

The irony could not be ignored, as it was Middendorp who brought Smeekes to United at the beginning of last season. But injury — a broken leg kept the Dutchman out for seven months — ensured that Smeekes’s first season at the Team of Choice would be a forgettable one.

But those days are over now, and Smeekes — one of the league’s quickest players — has been playing with a freedom and confidence that has turned him into a major asset for coach Steve Komphela and United’s bid to move away from the dangers of relegation.

Playing either as an out-and-out striker or as an advanced left winger, Smeekes is looking stronger than ever and his performance on Wednesday night saw him last the full 90 minutes for the first time in his United career.

His struggles with injury and fitness are the exact reasons why he may not be rewarded with a contract extension when the season is over, but if his performances in the run in continue to impress United fans, then United chairperson Farouk Kadodia will have to think long and hard before letting go of a player who has voiced his desire to stay in South Africa.

Komphela, though, would not be drawn into giving too much away over the prospect of a contract extension.

“It is all about going back, doing our audit, and looking at the team and trying to find a balance amongst the players,” the coach told The Witness.

“His performance justifies whatever decisions we have to take. This performance [Wednesday’s] has given a plus to him. I think he deserves to be with us.”

Middendorp would not take any credit for Smeekes’s rejuvenation, and credited the work Komphela had done on the 32-year-old.

“At that time [when Middendorp coaches United] we [him and Smeekes] were not on the same page of the Bible,” admitted Middendorp. “Perhaps for him it was an advantage to get Steve and to start fresh. He is a dangerous player and Steve has handled him well.”

United will turn their attention to the Nedbank Cup this weekend, and they have a difficult last 16 clash away at Platinum Stars tomorrow.

With the side having played three league matches in eight days, and with Komphela firmly of the mind-set that the league takes priority, there are likely to be few changes in personnel as the Team of Choice look to book their place in the quarter-final.

Tomorrow’s match kicks off at 3 pm and will be televised on Super­Sport Four.

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