United need to win Celtic clash to revive their top-eight ambitions

2010-09-22 00:00

IT’S been an up-and-down start to the Premier Soccer League season for Maritzburg United, and so far the downs have outweighed the ups as the Team of Choice prepare to take on Bloemfontein Celtic tonight at Seisa Ramabodu Stadium.

United’s form has been decidedly patchy at the start of the season.

Apart from a second half against Kaizer Chiefs a fortnight ago, where the team fought from a goal down to draw 1-1, the PMB team have barely been able to put together spells where their fluency has been up to standard.

Key to United’s attack are the trio of Kurt Lentjies, Rudolf Bester and Felix Obada, and they have been somewhat awol at the start of the season. Along with playmaker Musa Nyatama, the quartet seem on their own mission, rather than working as a unit.

In Friday night’s 3-0 home defeat to Lamontville Golden Arrows, the defence were also all over the place.

To some extent rustiness is surely to blame. Also, a lot of players — Diyo Sibisi, Fabian McCarthy, Bevan Fransch, David Booysen — arrived around the start of the season.

Nonetheless, against Arrows, United looked like a newly-promoted team rather than a side starting its third season back in the PSL, and one that has continuity in its coaching staff and starting line-up at that.

If Maritzburg’s aim is to achieve a top-eight finish this season, they are going to have to come up with something a bit special, be commited and relatively consistent — against big-name and smaller-name teams.

Arrows’ win rammed that home.

Chiefs, SuperSport United and Mamelodi Sundowns appear to be the early favourites for the title. Ajax Cape Town are in form too, Santos finished fourth last season, and Arrows look like top-five candidates.

That leaves two more spots in the top eight from teams, including Celtic, wealthy Platinum Stars, ambitious AmaZulu, and consistent Wits University. It’s not going to be easy — not even slightly.

There is still plenty of time to iron out the kinks. Three matches without a win is miniscule in the greater scheme of a league marathon.

But the Team of Choice will also know from experience that you don’t want to fall too far behind early on. An improvement of any sort against Celtic tonight will be a positive step.

United coach Ernst Middendorp is looking for greater cohesion from his team.

“When you see the movement of the team you need co-operation as you do in training. We have to have better structure and stability and of course a better performance,” he said.

Like Maritzburg, Celtic have had a patchy start to the season, though they do at least have their first win under the belt, 3-1 in their second match at home against AmaZulu.

Coach Clinton Larsen has seen his side lose their other two games, 2-0 away to Ajax and 1-0 to Chiefs at the Rand Stadium on the weekend.

Celtic’s dangerous attacking trio of tall striker Nathan Paulse, Nigerian Prince Olomu and Moses Spandeel will have to be closely watched.

Today: Lamontville Golden Arrows v Free State Stars (Chatsworth Stadium, 3.30 pm), Bloemfontein Celtic v Maritzburg United (Seisa Ramabodu Stadium, 7.30 pm), Santos v Mamelodi Sundowns (Athlone Stadium, 7.30 pm — live on SuperSport Blitz), Platinum Stars v AmaZulu (Royal Bafokeng Stadium, 7.30 pm), Vasco Da Gama v Wits University (Phillippi Stadium, 7.30 pm)

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