United have a coach who can do no wrong

2014-03-04 00:00

AT the end of Maritzburg United’s 1-0 win over Moroka Swallows on Friday night, coach Steve Komphela left the field to a thunderous reception from the Harry Gwala crowd.

It was unlike anything seen in recent times at the club, as all of Ian Palmer, Ernst Middendorp and Clinton Larsen battled in their endeavours to sell their philosophies to Team of Choice supporters. But in Komphela, United have a coach who can do no wrong at the moment, and as long as the relegation-threatened club continue their movement away from the basement of the log, Komphela will continue to enjoy the support of the city.

Komphela has won seven points out of a possible 12 since his first match in charge on February 5, and the PSL table makes for slightly more bearable reading for United now. Friday night’s win saw them move up to 13th position and, more importantly, four points clear of Komphela’s old club Free State Stars in 15th position (the dreaded relegation/promotion playoff position).

Stars have a game in hand on United, and if they beat Ajax Cape Town this Saturday to move to within one point of the Team of Choice, then next Tuesday night’s league clash between the sides will be nothing short of massive.

“We need to use this time to get some oxygen back into our systems, to get some energy, because March and April are going to be very tough times in the league,” Komphela told The Witness when asked about the 10 full days his side have off between the Swallows and Stars matches. “These breaks can be difficult when you are playing well. You want the momentum to carry on and you don’t know what will happen when you start playing again.”

But if early indications are anything to go by, then the more time United spend on the training pitch under Komphela’s guidance, the better it will be for them. Friday night saw the side playing with a confidence that allowed them to keep the ball with ease, and the margin of victory could well have been greater had the likes of Orlando Smeekes, Bhongolwethu Jayiya and Thokozani Sekotlong been more clinical in front of goal. “I don’t know when we are going to start taking these chances,” bemoaned Komphela. “We are still being too kind to the opposition. We need to be more ruthless.”

One of the most encouraging signs to emerge from Friday night was the performance of Dutchman Smeekes, who was used in an unfamiliar position as United’s sole striker. With a scary burst of pace being Smeekes’s obvious threat, United always looked dangerous on the counter attack.

“He [Smeekes] is explosive,” said Komphela. “It is all a matter of understanding his psyche and mentality. We have found his strength and we are trying to capitalise on that.”

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