United add depth for tie with AmaZulu

2013-02-08 00:00

THE PSL will step out of Afcon’s shadow next week when fixtures resume for the season’s second round of fixtures, and Maritzburg United kick off their quest to stay among the league’s top sides with a tasty clash at the Moses Mabhida stadium against a struggling AmaZulu.

With the country going Bafana crazy over the last month, PSL sides have been hard at work for some five weeks in another stint of pre-season training.

United have bolstered their squad with four new players in the January registration window, and the side now have greater depth.

Coach Ernst Middendorp will rest a little easier knowing that he has more cover should injuries and suspensions disrupt what has been a stellar season for the Team of Choice so far.

But AmaZulu, currently bottom of the log and in the fight of their lives against relegation, have signed seven new players, including much-hyped former Orlando Pirates striker Drogba Ndulula.

Joseph Molangoane (Platinum Stars), Luyanda Hlongwa, Phumlani Mhamha (both Free Stars) and Njabulo Manqana (Orlando Pirates) are the other established names to join Usuthu in what appears to be desperate times for inexperienced coach Craig Rosslee.

Things are a lot more stable at Harry Gwala stadium, where the additions of Dillon Sheppard, Virgil Vries, Heinrich Isaacks and the recalled Ayanda Ndlovu from NFD outfit Sivutsa Stars are all moves that (with the exception of goalkeeper Vries) add attacking firepower to Middendorp’s outfit.

“We looked for a possibility to have more competition in the squad and have players pushing eachother for positions,” Middendorp said of his new signings, singling out Namibian Vries for the pressure he will place on first team goalkeeper Shu-Aib Walters for a starting berth.

The coach added that the attacking ability of Sheppard and Isaacks on the flanks would allow him to use Zimbabwean Terrance Mandaza in more of a central role as backup to United’s top scorer this season, Cuthbert Malajila.

Mandaza is likely to be played as the sole out-and-out striker on Tuesday for the first time this season as Malajila recovers from a knock he picked up in pre-season, and Middendorp’s concerns about available personnel do not stop there.

Isaacks and Ghanaian winger Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi are minor injury concerns, while centre-back Mohamed Awal is still with the Ghanaian national side for their Afcon third/fourth place playoff against Mali tomorrow.

Dutch speedster Orlando Smeekes’s recovery from a broken foot has also not gone according to plan, and he will only be allowed back on the training ground in March.

But Middendorp would not rule out Awal’s availability for Tuesday, despite the 24-year-old’s absence from United’s pre-season training.

United are currently in fifth position on the log.

Tuesday night’s match kicks off at 7.30 pm.

• sport@witness.co.za

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