United looking to pull up their socks against Free State Stars after dismal start to PSL second round

2013-02-19 00:00

MARITZBURG United will look to recover from a dismal start to the second round of PSL fixtures this season with an improved showing against fourth-placed Free State Stars at Charles Mopeli stadium tomorrow night.

A 0-0 draw with AmaZulu last Tuesday was followed by a 3-0 thrashing at the hands of Mamelodi Sundowns on Friday night, and United will play their third match away from Harry Gwala in eight days tomorrow.

While Friday night’s loss to Sundowns was technically a home match for coach Ernst Middendorp’s side, it was one of the three fixtures that the club agreed to play in Port Elizabeth at the start of the season.

But all is not lost for United, who still sit in an impressive fifth place on the log.

Middendorp accused his side of trying to play too much like Sundowns in Friday night’s match, and expects United to give an immediate positive response tonight.

“They [Sundowns] played well, but I think we have to be critical of our own game.

“We didn’t perform and we have to be at our best in defence,” the coach told The Witness yesterday.

“You don’t always have to play carpet football from the back like we kept trying to. Sometimes you just have to make the right decision in the moment.”

Middendorp is still waiting to hear from the team doctor about the fitness of Heinrich Isaacks, Ruben Cloete and Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi, who all picked up knocks in the loss to Sundowns.

But with the fixture congestion currently being experienced by all PSL sides, Middendorp has been forced into shuffling his starting lineup for each game anyway.

“With a game every three or four days, we need to change the players,” he said.

“If we leave a player out, it does not mean he is not playing well. He is still part of the team, but we need to make sure that all of our players are in good condition.”

For this exact reason, Middendorp opted to leave out experienced right back Peter Peterson on Friday to accommodate the return of centre back Mohamed Awal, while Byrone Hendricks moved out to fullback.

“It looks very likely that Peter [Peterson] will play on Wednesday,” said Middendorp.

The coach was also encouraged by the return to action of Zimbabwean striker Cuthbert Malajila, who played the full 90 minutes against Sundowns after recovering from a knee injury.

“It was a big risk selecting Cuthbert for that game, but he is a player who can make something happen,” said Middendorp.

“What a lot of people don’t realise is that he hasn’t played any football for four weeks and he missed all of our friendlies during the break.

“I am happy that it went well and he came through the game okay.”

Tomorrow night’s match kicks off at 6 pm and will not be televised.

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