United on a high

2010-03-06 00:00

WHATEVER the result of Maritzburg United’s final game of their 2009/10 Premier Soccer League campaign against Santos at Harry Gwala Stadium this afternoon, there can be no doubt this has been the club’s most successful season so far.

Mathematically, the lowest United can finish, should they lose and results go against them, will be 12th — to mirror last season’s position.

This will be disappointing for the Team of Choice, after having shown such great promise in the second half of the season, under Ernst Middendorp.

However, even then, it will be the first time United has completed a season safe, with a game to spare — an achievement in itself for a side used to fighting relegation.

But such has their form been at home, especially since United’s return to Harry Gwala Stadium, that the Pietermaritzburg team will not be entertaining thoughts of a defeat today. This even against a quality side like Santos, who have had an excellent season under Boebie Solomons to come in fourth.

Tenth-placed United will have their eye firmly on trying to hurdle AmaZulu, a point ahead of them, and finish ninth to crown a successful second-half campaign.

Usuthu play SuperSport United, champions for a third consecutive season, at Moses Mabhida Stadium in their final game today.

Captain Fadlu Davids said: “A victory will ensure a good finish and … we want to say thank you to our supporters for amazing support throughout the season, and give them another dose of exciting soccer.”

Finishing on a high note will send United into the Telkom Knockout and Nedbank Cup competitions in March and April in good spirits, and set them up for their push for that elusive top-eight finish next season.

And a ninth place for United will be a worthy finish for a team that now certainly boasts some good players, and has played some impressive football.

United will be aware, from past experience, how important it will be to hold on to Middendorp and to keep the majority of their squad.

The club is sure to make every effort to retain at least two of their loan players who have made such a difference to the balance of their team — tall, intelligent centre-back Mario Booysen from Ajax Cape Town and the best goalkeeper to have played for United, Shu-aib Walters from Bloemfontein Celtic.

Kurt Lentjies from Mamelodi Sundowns might be more difficult for United to retain because of the price the Brazilians are bound to ask for the winger, but it will be something if they can keep the dapper midfielder because he’s a heck of a player — probably United’s best in the second half of the season.

It has not been the loan signings alone that have inspired United’s revival, but also Middendorp’s ability to get the best out of other quality players such as Lentjies’s forward-line partners in crime, Rudolf Bester and Felix Obada, and central midfield pair Musa Nyatama and Chilis Madondo.

Right-back Peter Petersen has been his normal steady self, and left-back Elias Ngwepe United’s most consistent performer across the season.

This afternoon United will come up against a Santos side who, as their league position suggests, have more than a few quality performers of their own. The Santos squad have also been well organised by Solomons.

Dangerous forwards Erwin Isaacs, Graham King, Tyren Arendse, Ryan Chapman and Eleazor Rodgers are the strength of the team.

It will take some doing to beat the Capetonians, who will be determined to win to stay in fourth position above Orlando Pirates. However, United’s results at Harry Gwala, of two wins out of two, have been superseded only by the football they have played, and the home team will fancy their chances.


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