United look to bounce back

2012-12-07 00:00

THE last time Maritzburg United tasted defeat in the PSL before Tuesday night’s 1-0 loss to Platinum Stars at Harry Gwala was on September 28, by the same scoreline and at the same venue against Wits.

But United bounced back from that loss with a run of six undefeated matches.

Coach Ernst Middendrop will be looking for that exact reaction when his charges meet underachieving Ajax Cape Town at Athlone stadium tonight.

“Our commitment, our desire within the squad is still very good,” he told The Witness shortly after the visitors arrived in Cape Town yesterday evening. “We have done it before. We did it last time and we can do it again.”

A major contributor to the loss to Stars was the controversial sending off of centre back Mohamed Awal.

The Ghanaian is now suspended, meaning that Middendorp will have his depth in that position tested for the first time this season.

But it all depends on how the German tactician decides to set up. If he opts to continue with three centre- backs, as he has done in the last four fixtures, then he may be tempted to bring in David Booysen to play alongside his brother, Mario, and Byrone Hendricks.

If Middendorp opts for a more conventional back four, however, then the combination of Hendricks and Mario Booysen may prove sufficient.

“David [Booysen] is certainly an option for us,” said Middendorp.

“But as I have said before, we have many options. I have not made any decision yet.”

One thing that Middendorp is sure of, though, is that tonight’s clash will be a massive fixture for the home side. Ajax, title contenders not too long ago, are now languishing in 13th position on the table and come off a disappointing 3-0 hammering away to log leaders Kaizer Chiefs.

“They are a side that always like to pressure their opposition and move forward a lot,” said Middendorp. “It is a crucial game for them, but we need to make a plan and deal with it.”

Good news for Middendorp and the Team of Choice is that, after Tuesday night’s bruising encounter, all players involved in that clash were on the plane to Cape Town.

Mthokozisi Yende, substituted at half time against Stars, is recovering from a bruised and swollen knee, while Ruben Cloete suffered from a dead leg.

“They are both in some pain, but fortunately, nothing was broken and nothing seems too serious,” said the coach.

“We will monitor the situation over the next hours and I am hopeful that they will both be available to play.”

Another question mark over selection hovers over who Middendorp will select at right back and, again, this is likely to be determined by what formation United start the match with.

Michael Morton was employed as a wing back on Tuesday night, but seemed to struggle with the pace of Stars winger Tintswalo Tshabalala.

Rheece Evans would offer more speed than Morton, but there is also the option of the experienced Peter Petersen (benched against Stars), who is now fit again.

With two fixtures in three days, it is hard not to see Middendorp employing some kind of squad rotation.

But the German refused to make any excuses over the fixture congestion that his side must deal with in their bid to move back into the top three.

“We can talk about it, but it is what it is,” he said. “It has no influence and we just have to accept it.”

Tonight’s match kicks off at 8 pm and will not be televised.

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