United have one foot in the NFD final

2008-04-06 00:00

Maritzburg United United are the hot favourites to go through to the National First Division final from the Coastal stream, after their stirring 1-0 victory over Bay United at Harry Gwala Stadium on Saturday.

United regained the lead of the Coastal Stream from Bay by two points, and need a victory over fifth-placed Durban Stars at Harry Gwala on Saturday to go into the final with FC AK, who wrapped up the NFD Inland Stream with a 3-2 win over Ga-rankuwa United yesterday. The winners of the two-leg final are promoted to the Premier Soccer League.

United put in one of their most polished performances of the season to topple Bay, creating numerous chances, while the PE visitors did not manage a shot on goal.

“I am very pleased,” said United coach Ian Palmer. “We worked hard on finding the right tactics and I thought the guys applied that very well.

“When Bay beat us 2-0 here [in February] they really came at us and used their width very effectively. So we decided to close them down, and worked all week on fast attacking to break up their rhythm.”

A good crowd of some 5 000 people had to wait nervously until the 56th minute before United broke the deadlock, when — after Bay defender Mouen Rodrigue handled on the line — Fadlu Davids stepped up to slot the spot-kick past Arthur Bartman.

United then defended well, while continuing to attack sporadically.

Palmer said United have concentrated almost solely on attack in training since their last match against FC Cape Town two weeks ago.

“We went into a slump in January, but before that we played at our peak in a 2-0 win over Ikapa Sporting in December. We tried to identify what it was we did right on that day, and then we concentrated on those areas in training such as switch-balls, closing down and the fight we showed.

“This last two weeks we almost did not work on defence and concentrated solely on attack. Also the players knew it was a big game, so we didn’t have to motivate them.”

Palmer said the good crowd who got behind the team following the club’s decision to allow free entry into the ground, made a “massive difference” in lifting the United players.

The coach said United’s form is encouraging, as they need one more crucial win to reach the NFD final. “We are not through yet and I’m a firm believer in taking it game by game. After the Stars game, I can begin to prepare for the final.”

In the first half, Lynch Pule’s shot saved by Bartman, Davids’s sideheel just wide and Omar Hendricks’s free-kick palmed over by the Bay keeper were all good chances. After Davids put his side ahead, Hendricks saw another shot saved by Bartman and substitute Sipho Mngomezulu’s 79th-minute strike was touched by the keeper onto the crossbar.

Saturday: Durban Stars 0 FC Cape Town 2, WP United 0 Hanover Park 2, Maritzburg United 1 Bay United 0, Ikapa Sporting FC 1 Nathi Lions 2.

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