Team of Choice need to focus on fixing errors tonight, says coach

2013-02-20 00:00

AN immediate positive response — that’s what Maritzburg United coach Ernst Middendorp is expecting from his side when they meet Free State Stars at the Charles Morepi stadium in Phuthaditjhaba tonight.

The PSL has taken somehing of a U-turn for United, who exceeded all expectations to consolidate a position in the top five before the extended Christmas break. But a tame draw at AmaZulu was followed by a beating at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns.

The Team of Choice have not had a great February, amassing just one point from a possible six. But Middendorp insists that there is no cause for concern just yet.

“Obviously we know our log position and we know where we want to be,” Middendorp said. “But we will look at that later. For now I am more interested in the side improving their performance and showing spirit.”

Spirit is not something that was missing the last time the two sides met. Two late goals saw the sides share the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Harry Gwala stadium back in September, and that match was one that saw United do well to match Stars’ physically.

“We know that they are a strong and physical side and we are expecting them to use this in attack,” said Middendorp. “But I would prefer for us to focus on correcting our own mistakes.”

United’s defensive display against Sundowns on Friday night left much to be desired, and this is likely Middendorp’s main area of concern. Two of the goals came from errors at left back — one from Ruben Cloete and another from substitute Thabang Matuka — while the performance of Ghanaian centre back Mohamed Awal was nervy. Awal had been rushed back into the side after returning from Ghana, where he had travelled with the side following the Africa Cup of Nations.

While the defence tried once too often to pass the ball out from the back against Sundowns, Middendorp has encouraged his back four to make the right decisions tonight by clearing their lines when they need to.

There are likely to be numerous changes to tonight’s starting lineup, given that this is United’s third PSL match in eight days.

How Maritzburg College’s Bandile Shandu is used remains a hot talking point for fans.

The 17-year-old has started the last two matches in central midfield, but was substituted at half-time in both of them. Having played in both a defensive and an advanced role, Shandu has already shown his flexibility, but his selection tonight, given Stars’ physicality, is still in the balance.

“He can play in different positions and we are still trying to see where is best to use him,” Middendorp said of Shandu.

United will move above Stars into fourth place on the PSL log if they win tonight.

The match kicks off at 6 pm and will not be televised.

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