United aim to end goal drought

2013-02-23 00:00

IF there is one thing that we have learned about Ernst Middendorp over his Maritzburg United career, it is that he doesn’t approach cup football any differently to league football.

His emphasis when the Team of Choice meet the University of Pretoria in the last 32 of the Nedbank Cup today will, once again, be on his side’s performance and nothing else.

While the coach continues to focus on implementing a defensive structure that makes his side difficult to break down, it is no secret that they also need to start finding the back of the net at some stage.

Three PSL matches this year have not yielded a goal for United, and with striker Cuthbert Malajila not at his optimum performance level as he continues to recover from a knee injury, these are challenging times for United’s goal-scoring ambitions.

The two league clashes between the sides this season have been heated. In the PSL season opener Tuks were aggressive, to the point where the officiating was heavily criticised after United — and Delron Buckley in particular — were the victims of some blatantly dangerous tackles. A late Mario Booysen goal earned United a point that day, and when the sides met again at Harry Gwala in December it was just as tight — a Malajila penalty sharing the spoils once more.

But this is all irrelevant for Middendorp, and all that matters to him is that the side continues the progress they have made this season by staying disciplined.

“We approach the cup game the same as we would any other game,” Middendorp told Weekend Witness.

“We look for the performance and the reaction of the players. Hopefully we can be better in the forward movement and then we can get the result. We know that much more is possible [given United’s last three lacklustre displays].”

While the league is always the priority for any team, United fans would love nothing more than to enjoy a cup run and challenge for silverware this season.

While Malajila is almost certain to start, despite not being at his best, Middendorp will also sweat over the availability of Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi, Ruben Cloete and Heinrich Isaacks after the trio were injured in last Friday’s loss to Mamelodi Sundowns.

Good news is that midfield workhorse Michael Morton returns from suspension.

But the major problem for United, above any other, is that they aren’t creating enough chances to score goals. At the beginning of the season, Buckley was the conductor of the United orchestra — his touches, passes and goal scoring ability all contributing to the best start the team had ever made to a PSL campaign. But when the former Bafana Bafana star is not at his best, it is difficult to see where else the creativity will come from.

Tonight’s match kicks off at 8.15 pm and will be shown on SABC 1.

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